The Summerside Elementary School held its fourth annual Native American Bazaar Oct. 20.
The entire fifth grade class, which has been studying Native Americans and their respective cultures, transformed the school’s gym into a museum with their hand-made projects on display.
“The Native American Bazaar was added to the curriculum four years ago,” said Summerside Language Arts teacher Becky Finke. “The students spent three weeks in class researching, reading, discussing, and preparing the projects. All of the hard work on their specific projects has culminated in today’s fair. Today, the students are putting on the festival so the rest of the students can understand what they have been working on in a fun and entertaining way.”
The whole goal of the bazaar was to learn about a Native American culture and then showcase what they learned in a hands-on, more creative way than just taking a test or reading a textbook and answering questions, Finke said.
The students studied not just the tribes of Native Americans in Ohio, but the tribes that inhabited – and still inhabit – the entire North American continent.
“We let the kids study in-depth one particular region or tribe,” said fifth grade teacher Dan Coller. “They could work individually, with partners, or in small groups of four to five. They had five categories to choose from.”
The categories that the students chose from were hands-on, where they built or created something, where they demonstrated something that the tribe would have used on a daily basis, dramatics, such as puppet shows or story-telling (myths and legends), environmental, how they used their environment to survive, and present-day society, or how the tribe is doing today.
“The kids were very enthusiastic about their projects,” said Finke. “Their projects allowed them to actually create something and then share what they learned. The kids were the teachers for the day and that was exciting for everyone.”
Fifth graders Stephanie Bogan, 10, Eryn Fitzer, 10, and Allyson Croll, 10, did a project on the tropical rain forests that some Native American tribes thrived in for centuries.
“We were interested in the Incas, the Mayas, and the Aztecs,” said Bogan. “We made items that related to the rain forest culture of those native peoples. We have even made hot cocoa and a pumpkin stew the way that they made it.”
In addition to the pumpkin soup and hot cocoa (which was served in paper cups for everyone to try and was very bitter), their farming practices, their housing, their musical instruments, and their masks were also on display.
Eleven-year-old Aidan Henretty did his project on the Cherokee Indians.
“I worked on my project for three and a half hours every day for three weeks,” he said. “I made a full-size hunting spear, a canoe, galoshes, bows and arrows, and I even researched ghost stories. This project is a lot of fun and I learned so much. The most important thing that I learned was that when the Europeans came in, the Indians were very nice to them. But the Europeans were not so nice and forced them to leave and abandon the homes that they had lived in for years.”
Coller said that they will continue with the educational bazaar in years to come because it is a fun and memorable way for the students to learn the history of the country.
In addition to Coller and Finke, fifth-grade teachers Pat Shaw and Mark Duff also coordinated the festival.