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How can artifacts teach us about the past? Museum of the American Indian

March 24, 2023 | Clara Buckley

This week fourth and fifth grade students visited the Museum of the American Indian in support of their current STEAM study: How can we better honor the cultural heritage of this land? It was a wonderful opportunity to visit this Smithsonian museum right on our doorstep.

At school, students researched a geographic area of the United States, learning about the historical relationships between people and the land. With this background knowledge we were ready to analyze artifacts for evidence about environment and culture.

Students selected an artifact from the cultural area they have been researching. They began by making concrete observations about the artifact and drawing it, before connecting to their previous learning about the cultural area. Later back in the classroom, students made interpretations about how the object was used.

We visited the Native New York gallery learning about the history of tribes in this region from pre–Revolutionary War exchanges through present day events. Highlights were the invention of the game of lacrosse, the NYC skyscrapers built by Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) ironworkers, and a demonstration.

At the imagiNATIONS Activity Center, students explored scientific principles behind Native innovations and technologies. They used geometry concepts to construct an iglu, balanced in Inuit style kayaks, marveled at the strength of Incan rope suspension bridges, and played a farming computer simulation to keep their families alive the way Haudenosaunee people of New York did.

We ended our trip with a visit to the Elevated Acre for lunch and play. A hidden gem of a park near Wall Street.

Clara Buckley

Preschool Art Specialist; Middle School Art

Clara Buckley’s teaching spans the ages of Mustard Seed School, from the youngest students in the preschool to students in the graduating class. She’s found many similarities between teaching three-year-olds and thirteen-year-olds!

As an art teacher who never enjoyed drawing, Ms Buckley’s hope is that each child she teaches discovers a way to create art that they enjoy, whether it be sculpture, printing, textiles, architectural drawing, or collage.

Ms. Buckley loves living in Jersey City, a place whose diversity and welcome for immigrants reflects her own family experience. When planning future travel destinations, art, food, and time with family are featured items on her list.

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