IN THE NEWS
last updated: Mon, Feb 24th, 2014
|Emily Stewart works on her personal history
Learning the way of the Lenape
Kristy McFarlane's fourth-graders were excited to learn they already knew how to speak some of the language of the Lenape, the Native Americans who once lived in our area. Not fluently, just a word here and there. Like passaic (valley), watchung (hilly place), hackensack (place of sharp ground), and kittatinny (big mountain). In fact, many places in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware still bear their phonetically-spelled original Lenape names.
The fourth grade social studies curriculum centers around all things New Jersey and Ms. McFarlane’s class was recently immersed in Lenape customs and culture.
The students learned about the Lenape from textbooks and handouts, and watched videos of Native Americans on the Discovery Education website.
Of particular interested to students was the resourcefulness of the Lenape in making use of their natural resources, the different dialects used in different geographical areas, and the clear delineation of responsibilities between men and women.
The highlight of the unit for the kids, however, was telling in pictures their own personal histories or made-up Lenape histories. The Lenape did not have a written language and used pictorial symbols to communicate in writing and to record events, like most other Native American tribes did.
First, the fourth-graders distressed paper bags by crumbling them and wetting the edges to help simulate animal hides. Then, using markers and some common Native American symbols – and some symbols of their own creation – the students told their real life or fictional Lenape life stories.
“The project really put students in the place of the Lenape,” Ms. McFarlane said. “It gave them a chance to think about what life was like without a written language or technology, and the challenges that would create.”
After the pictorial histories were completed, the students presented them to the entire class.
|Daniel Franz works on a paper model of Mars
Portraying the vastness of space
“Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean you may think it’s a long walk down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space.”
Douglas Adams – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Dona Scheidecker’s fourth grade class recently learned just how “mind-bogglingly big” space really is. The students recently studied the solar system and compared the size of the planets with the size of the Earth. To visualize the comparison, the students created the planets and the sun in relative proportions out of construction paper.
The students were given the diameter of the Earth model they were to make and then the fractional sizes of the other planets in relation to Earth. They then calculated the sizes of all the planet cutouts, as well as the sun.
Working in small groups using string compasses, the students made the circles representing the solar bodies. The sun and Jupiter were so large compared to Earth, the models couldn’t be made to scale. (While Jupiter is 11 times the diameter of Earth, the sun is 109 times the Earth’s size. If Earth was an inch in diameter, the sun would be more than 9 feet from end to end.)
“The kids were really overwhelmed with how big things are in the universe,” said Ms. Scheidecker. “They were totally blown away. Just reading about the sizes couldn’t have given the kids the same impact as making the models. It really was a powerful, hands-on project.”
The sun and planetary cutouts were then hung in the hallway outside the classroom. The students also wrote brief descriptions of the solar bodies that were also displayed – a perfect way to reinforce the informational writing skills they were simultaneously learning about in language arts. Each planetary description included such information as the actual diameter of the planet, length of a day, length of a year, number of moons, average distance from the sun, and surface features.
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|Aneesa Brelvi writes a description of Venus