Fourth-grade Braves 'love' Native American curriculum
Banks Elementary School fourth-graders gasped. They sat cross-legged, mostly quiet, occasionally oohing and aahhing. Their hands shot up with questions and comments, fingers wiggling, reaching high to the ceiling.
"It was a really fun day," said Banks fourth-grade teacher Lara McCabe. "They were very focused."
Linda Hill of the Washington County Museum visited each of the school's three fourth-grade classrooms Tuesday, Jan. 30, teaching the students about local Native American tribes, including the Kalapuya people who inhabited what is now the city of Banks.
Hill told the children about the Kalapuya's dietary staples: camas bulbs, elk and deer. She taught them about the tribes' clothing and homes. She explained how they stored enough food to make it through the winter.
The visit was part of the school's revamped Native American curriculum, which stemmed from an agreement with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. The Oregon Board of Education banned Native American mascots in the state a few years ago, with a 2016 compromise allowing school districts to keep the mascot only if their local tribes agreed. The Confederated Tribes said Banks schools could keep their beloved Braves if they updated their imagery and incorporated their curriculum into fourth- and eighth-grade social studies classes.
"It was nice to have a full program all put together," McCabe said.
McCabe has been teaching Native American units in Banks for about 10 years, but she is excited about incorporating the tribes' curriculum.
"Knowing it was all authentic — I felt good about that," she remarked.
The materials from the tribes include visual examples of clothes, homes and houses, to name a few. And the lessons incorporated many hands-on activities, such as asking the student to look at Native American longhouses and then draw them.
The students also wove their own Native American baskets around paper cups with yarn.
"It's unusual how they lived and fascinating," said fourth-grader Kiara. I think others would really like learning this."
The curriculum covers everything from the basic — What is a tribe? How is one formed? — to the more complicated issues of the U.S. government taking Native lands and moving Native peoples to reservations.
"A lot of the kids had a hard time understanding why that happened and we talked a lot about what that would be like for our families to have to do that," McCabe said. "That's why we try to understand and learn from history."
The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde curriculum also covers the Kalapuya much more specifically than McCabe's previous lessons, so when Hill asked the students about local tribes' food, traditions and culture, they knew a lot of the answers.
"They're really retaining this knowledge," McCabe said.
Hill showed the students a traditional Kalapuyan stick with a handle on top used to dig out camas bulbs.
"Who made that?" one child asked.
"Did the Native Americans make that?" asked another.
A Native American woman made the stick, modeled after one of her family's instruments, and donated it to the museum a few years ago, Hill told the children.
"I think it's interesting how the girls had to do all the work gathering stuff," said Marisol, a fourth-grader, recalling the part of Hill's presentation when she told the children the women were responsible for gathering plant material while men hunted.
Kalapuya Indians cooked camas bulbs hundreds at a time in pits that held hot rocks covered by wet leaves, Hill said, to steam the root and maintain the nutrients. They survived the winter eating the dried bulbs along with deer and elk.
"It's cool how they made thousands of things of food for big groups," said fourth-grader Alliana, who has some Native American ancestry.
Fourth-grader Payton, too, was also excited because her step-father has Native American ancestry.
"We learned about what they ate," she said. "And camas bulbs grow at my house."
Cash, a student in McCabe's class, enjoyed learning about the tools the most.
"It would be fun to live like the Native Americans for a day," he said. "I loved it."
By Stephanie Haugen
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times
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