Ask a Bauerwood fourth grader to describe the inside of a Wah-gin-ogun and they will be happy to tell you! It’s likely that they’ll also tell you how to throw a tomahawk and how exhausting it is to make your own coal [always good to know].
Last month, all 85 4th graders from Bauerwood braved the November snow and ventured to the Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway [ODC] in Holland to explore and learn hands-on natural and cultural history. Classes were divided into small groups and instructors from the ODC organized three stations for students to visit. At the first station students were presented with various materials and were asked to discover their original, intended use by Native Americans and French Fur Traders. Many of the artifacts were unknown to the students and the ability to interact with the items allowed the students to travel back in time as they discussed each piece’s original use.
Another station students visited was the Native American Summer Village and they sat inside the Wah-gin-ogun where they learned about Native American life. They also built and dismantled a winter three pole home, or Nuh-sweh-ogun.
Finally, the classes learned about the hardships and expectations of the French fur traders and were fascinated to know that despite spending most of their time on lakes and rivers, fur traders did not know how to swim!
Students were very enthusiastic about each opportunity presented by the ODC and 4th Grade Teacher, Craig Westra, says “Taking students out of the classroom and into outdoor environments where hands-on learning can take place is an enormous benefit.” Which is important as these students will be embarking on a Michigan History unit this winter and will, undoubtedly, draw from this experience and what they’ve learned through exploring. Students were already eager to use their deductive reasoning and preparation from their third grade regional social studies curriculum: “Wonderful discussions were overheard during the investigative class where students had to determine the purpose of various Native American artifacts.” – Mr Westra
“Unless children are provided the opportunity to touch and manipulate authentic materials, the learning process is much more difficult and children struggle to reach true understanding of an event or a time period. These memorable activities, discussions and exposure to resources at the Outdoor Discovery Center will benefit the learning and understanding of Native Americans throughout the school year. Having an expert who can answer the questions of students based on their research or experiences is also incredibly valuable.” – Mr Westra