Clyde Miller Elementary fourth graders unloaded lunch bins from the bus on a chilly Friday around 10:00 AM. Four groups split off in different directions at the Plains Conservation Center. Invested staff from Denver Botanic Gardens led our educational programs.
Ms. Judy told us the spiky yucca plant had many uses for Native Americans. Observant students noticed it had been chewed on--likely by a pronghorn antelope.
The tipi encampment is nested amidst the far expanses of flat grasslands. The Cheyenne were able to trade with Utes in the mountains to get lodge poles for their tipi structures. The chief had the most decorated bison hide. The paint depicts the night sky and a horse, with an emphasis on its heart.
Inside the tipi, students in groups of three constructed models of tipis, then put pictograph cloth tiles in order to review the process.
By midday, puffy coats were shed to enjoy the warmth of the sun. Youth played with traditional games of Man Stick, during which they shuffled tiles and dropped them to the ground. Depending on how the sticks fell, kids earned points!
They could also try out archery and target practice with spears. Native American children would have been learning to hunt and fish by the age of 9 or 10. Do you remember throwing spears at moving hoop targets?
Inside the yurt at Plains Conservation Center, numerous artifacts lay atop a sprawled bison skin. After learning the Cheyenne used all parts of the large, Great Plains mammal, kids worked in partners to guess from what the objects were made and for what they were used. We explored a water bottle made from a bladder, and a backpack to hold clothing made from hide.
Down at the town of sod homes, children cautiously sat up straight in the schoolhouse for the pretend, strict teacher. They left saying they would never visit again, except to play. Then we ventured to a covered wagon skeleton to discuss hardships of travel when settlers moved west. In our group, a small fraction of well-prepared or lucky travelers lived, while a majority died from the harsh elements.
We imagined living at a temporary shelter built in the slope of a hill, before progressing to a cabin home. Within the sod home, students played a matching game to spot historical household items and analogous current home luxuries.
The day ended with a wagon ride back to the main buildings. Students hurried and flurried to catch last-minute bathroom breaks or forgotten coats. Off they went back to school on the bus, as they had come.
Thank you Plains Conservation Center and Denver Botanical Gardens for such interesting programs. We will see students and teachers soon for Family Nature Night at your elementary school!