At the beginning of this unit, I pass out the entire report and presentation packet to my students. They choose a tribe they would like to research (I make sure there are no overlaps, as they turn in a "decision form" to me early on) and I send them on their merry way. During class, we are learning about the general culture groups. At home, the kids get to be more specific. They learn about the basic Pre-Columbian housing, crafts, clothing, geographical area, and customs of the tribe they are researching. The kids get to actually build the house, make dolls wearing the clothing, write expository paragraphs, create maps, and construct the crafts typical of the tribe during the time before the Europeans arrived in the Americas. The best part is, though, that the pages they are given tells them exactly how to do the project. They can literally do it independently at home with very little help from an adult (although, admittedly when I did this in 3rd grade I did have to guide them along a bit more than I do with 5th graders).
And right about now you are probably thinking of all of the ways that this just won't work. I am here to tell you that it will. I have taught in a Title 1, 100% Free and Reduced lunch school for most of the years that I have taught. I have worked with students who have little to no support at home. Students who had not a dime to spare on anything extra. I have done this same project (with various levels of scaffolding) in grades 3, 4, and 5. And every year, I get nearly 100% of the projects back.
What I really love about this project is that, for many of them, it really is the first time they do something so big at home. The pride and joy they feel when they are sitting in the "Museum" telling others about their tribe is priceless. They learn so very much and really do walk away with a better feeling of social studies. It is fun and interesting, and JUST the thing needed to introduce the students into this fabulous world of social studies for the year!
here. It has been recently updated (to fix a few minor typos....whoops!) so if you already own it, be sure to redownload it!
Have you done this Native American Museum? How did it turn out for you? Do you do any other big social studies projects throughout the year?