Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Designing Information: A Lesson Using Poetry

Source: ASIDE
Our third-grade students do a large unit on the Native Americans. It begins with the study of the Iroquois Indians in New York and finishes with an independent research project on a specific tribe in North America. As part of this interdisciplinary unit, they work on a series of projects to support their understanding of our native people. This includes a variety of art projects, as well as a multimedia presentation using information and technology to demonstrate their knowledge of the hardships the Native Americans endured at the hands of European explorers and the United States government.

Source: ASIDE, 2011
As a further extension of this unit, the students analyze the poetry from the book The Circle of Thanks: Native American Poems and Songs of Thanksgiving by Joseph Bruchac. The book contains fourteen poems with themes of thanksgiving and the appreciation of nature based in part on traditional songs and prayers. The students learn that these works from the different American Indian cultures celebrate the aspects of creation and the natural resources that were so crucial for their survival and sustainability.

Source: ASIDE
For us, it is important that our students make the connection that Native Americans lived off the land and had a great respect for its gifts. Giving thanks for nature was ingrained in the culture of the American Indians. Their deference for the earth’s resources was unending, much like the continuous line of a circle or ever-winding line of a spiral.

For each of the poems in the book, the students deciphered the meaning to understand the importance of nature to the different tribes. They created the spiraled art you see here to design their own way of expressing why things such as the sun, wind and rain were so significant. The students learned that American Indians were continually grateful, especially for the plants and animals that gave them food and medicine. Each of these designs represents a way of envisioning the information from the poems, as well as embodying their way of personalizing the content.

Source: ASIDE
The spiral itself denotes a line that continues in the same way that the Native Americans think of nature as an unbroken need for life. By using the spiral to design the information, the students visually thought about the connection between it and the continued thanks for the environment that the American Indians tried to instill in their cultures.



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