Entering the classroom was like entering a museum dedicated to the study of Native American culture and that was exactly what the students had hoped.
Fourth-graders from Mary Darling’s class at Stedwick Elementary School, Montgomery Village, put together a Native American Research Center during their study of the environment and opened it to schoolmates, family and friends Feb. 19.
“One goal was to use the environmental lessons learned in science and see how they apply to Native American life,” Darling said in an email. “I didn’t want it to be just another project, it is all relevant to the fourth-grade science curriculum on the environment and we studied how Native Americans adapted to their environment.”
The project turned out to be a complete immersion, with students as scientists, as Native Americans and as museum docents.
Around the room were cardboard cutouts of teepees and totem poles, even a wolf lurking in a corner by a handmade cave. On the walls were photographs of famous Native Americans like Pocahontas, Sitting Bull and the Navajo Code Talkers of World War II along with artifacts students created during their studies.
Delasi Obobi showed a display of arrowheads “found” in the classroom, actually created by the students out of crafting clay.
“I think Native Americans wanted peace,” she said when asked what she learned from the project.
Nathan Roberts said he thought the most interesting thing he learned was that to become a man, boys had to show they could stand pain. He studied the Seneca tribe who lived in New York and were farmers, he said.
Eight different tribes, representing Native Americans from Maryland to Alaska, were depicted in dioramas showing how they lived within their environment. The scenes included representations of housing, food gathering and other activities.
Julio Martinez learned about the Powhatan Indians of Maryland who, he said had a good life.
“They didn’t have to move, they could plant things to eat and were hunters,” he said.
One of the highlights of the museum for visitors was participating in an archeological dig, hunting for arrowheads, which they could keep.
Diego Reyes said that offering the activity to the students was his favorite part of the museum. But, he added, it was hard to find some of the arrowheads just like the difficulties real archeologists face.