Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Pioneer Spirit

Guess who we've been learning about for the past several weeks in third grade?
The girls read Little House in the Big Woods while the boys read To the Frontier, the first in a series about young Buffalo Bill. True stories by true pioneers!
I wanted the students to realize that not all pioneers were white men and women. We spent a week reading historical fiction and biographies of Black Hawk, Sitting Bull, and Black Elk. One of the boys in class said, "I feel bad for how the Indians were treated". (I was kinda going for that response...) We came to appreciate the strength, good will, courage, and giving spirit of the Native Americans who tried to keep their way of life and yet forged relationships with settlers. We also read about black settlers such as Bass Reeves (Deputy Marshall of Indian Territory for 32 years), Mary Fields (stagecoach driver and laundry shop keeper in Montana for over 20 years), Nat Love (African American cowboy-turned-Pullman Porter), and Chinese-American workers who helped build the transcontinental railroad. Hopefully the kids learned that to be a pioneer, you need a spirit of perseverance, flexibility, and courage. It doesn't matter what color your skin is!

Shae worked hard to learn her lines as Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak. We know "him" as Black Hawk! I like what she wrote: "Black Hawk was more than a football team (because we play the Black Hawk Warriors); he was the leader of the Sauk tribes who fought to keep their farmlands (in Illinois and Wisconsin)". Shae took her role very seriously and worked hard to memorize her lines!

Paige was eager to play Sitting Bull, someone who most of the kids quickly related to, through a wonderful re-telling of his childhood. I have to admit, I didn't know much about Sitting Bull except that he was one of the Native Americans responsible for "Custer's last stand" at Little Big Horn. By the time I read his story with the children, I was cheering right along with the Lakota Sioux for their courageous victory over the US soldiers! It was neat to make the connections with Bill Cody (now all grown-up and known as "Buffalo Bill"), who invited Sitting Bull to join him in his Wild West Show which toured all over America and Europe. Paige was very respectful in her interpretation of this honest, open-minded man who befriended many and spoke on behalf of women and Native Americans everywhere.
After 15-some years of directing middle school and high school students, my expectations were probably a bit high for these third graders. I was disappointed when they didn't always speak loudly and broke character, but for the most part, they did a great job. Go All-Stars!!
We worked hard on the Pioneer Unit....including our grandparent essays (of our own family's pioneers), reading, writing, social studies and science studies of landforms. ("This land is my land....this land is your land...from the Mojave Islands....go high and flat-eau...you're on a plateau...this land was made for you and me!")

God is spirit, and the people who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. --John 4:24


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