As you spend November encouraging thankfulness and gratitude in your classroom, consider dedicating time to celebrating our nation’s Native American communities and acknowledging the treatment of Indigenous peoples in the Americas.
These projects from teachers across the country celebrate Native American Heritage Month through games, music, art, books, technology, film, and more:
Telling the Story
Mrs. Amber’s classroom serves Native American preschoolers from across her district. Her goal is to connect students with their Native history, cultures and traditions, instilling pride and confidence to achieve challenging academic standards. Through her project, Pre-K Indigenous Theater, she gave her students the opportunity to immerse themselves in imagination, creativity, cooperative learning and self-expression.
“We are most often inspired by picture books written by Indigenous storytellers and authors. We integrate our learning through hands-on experiences that I create in and outside of the classroom. Many of the stories we hear have animal characters that interact with the world around them and teach us valuable lessons about traditional ecological knowledge, culture and history. The students engage deeply in identifying and exploring ideas with the use of puppets. Over time, we have acquired bear, beaver, turtle, frog, otter, hare, and bee puppets, and we are still working to add others to our collection.”
By choosing a puppet theater with enough puppets for multiple students, she also gave her class opportunities to participate collaboratively on a story.
Sharing Students’ Traditions
As part of her project, Indigenous Heritage Month Materials, Ms. Slatoff let one of her students pick the materials for her DonorsChoose request:
“One of our students wanted to teach the class some Navajo String Games her shimásání (grandmother) taught her, so she picked out two different kinds of string to peer-teach this lesson to her classmates and share a piece of her history with us.”
Include the Indigenous students in your classroom in your lesson planning by inviting them to share their family histories and traditions as Native American Heritage Month activities!
In his project, Reservation Filmmakers Shoot Breathtaking Aerial Shots with a Drone, Mr. Snethen combined technology with the most abundant resource available: the Earth.
“My indigenous Lakta students are gifted and natural performing artists. They want to make movies here on the Pine Ridge. They want to showcase their homeland, their communities and their people.”
One drone (or for your classroom, a no-special-license-required camera!) will enable students to capture the true beauty of the land they live on, their neighborhood, or their school community.
Lifting Our Voices
Dr. Gardner loves her students’ stories. Her project, We Got to Tell it or Yell it!, to help emergent bilingual students gain confidence by recording oral histories to share with family and friends.
“We want to record and tell motivational stories of their struggle and overcoming to inspire others. Those who have a story are often shy or fear public speaking. Yet, we want to hear what they have to say. These gifts would help build up their confidence.”
Finding Yourself on the Page
Through her project, Culturally Responsive Whole-Class Novel for Honors 9th Grade English!, Ms. Cunningham requested a class set of “The Marrow Thieves” by Cherie Dimaline, an Indigenous Métis author.
“Our school, located in Southwest Phoenix, serves students from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds including a number of local Indigenous tribes and communities. These students, however, rarely get to see themselves and their culture reflected in the classroom, on the syllabus, and in the texts they read.”
By selecting a text that highlights the struggles and joys of Indigenous people, Ms. Cunningham aimed to give her students a book that’s “fun to read but still captures important messages about human nature, the historic mistreatment of Indigenous Americans, identity, the power of knowing who you are and where you're from, and hope”.
Turning up the Volume
Mr. Meyers wants to teach his students about the expansive world of percussion and introduce new instruments to his classroom. His project, Needs More Cowbell, provided them with instruments of many cultures and traditions, including Indigenous, Latin, and African peoples.
“Music is an important facet of education that students need. Because of your generous donation, my students have an opportunity to practice music that is culturally relevant. I am so excited to start this school year with even more instruments at our disposal.”
Use instruments (or a bluetooth speaker!) to introduce your students to worldwide music as a full lesson or as a three-minute transition from one activity to the next.
Reading, then Writing
Honor Native American Heritage Month all year long like Ms. Jody did with her project, Taking a Deep Dive into Indigenous History. Her high-schoolers got college-ready by developing their writing skills throughout the semester by studying Indigenous People’s history and writing a research paper on a topic of their own choosing.
“The classroom library that I will build with your help will allow students to conduct research by having access to the works of important Indigenous writers of our time.”
Check out these titles from Ms. Jody’s newly-stocked library:
- Project 562: Changing the Way We See Native America
- The Red Deal: Indigenous Action to Save Our Earth
- Standing with Standing Rock: Voices from the #NoDAPL Movement
- Flight: A Novel
- The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present
- Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
- Red Nation Rising: From Bordertown Violence to Native Liberation
- Apple: (Skin to the Core)
- Love Medicine: Newly Revised Edition
- The Earth Is Weeping: The Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West
- An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States (ReVisioning History)
Check out this blog post for resources to guide Native American Heritage Month lessons in your classroom, including the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian’s lesson plan: Celebrating Native Cultures Through Words: Storytelling and Oral Traditions.