Exploring Native American activities lends itself to a month-long theme for Cub Scouts, a national scouting movement for boys aged seven to ten (or in the first to fifth grade). Activities that include our country's Indian heritage are meaningful in a variety of ways -- historically, ecologically and spiritually.
Week One: Communicating Without Words
Have the Cub Scout den make up their own sign language for some common words such as hello, walk, swim, canoe and eat. Next, have them use chalk to draw signs on pieces of slate. A chalkboard can be used as well. The boys can simulate rock carving by carving symbols in clay which can be taken home to harden or left to be picked up the following week.
Week Two: Hunting the Native American Way
A bow and arrows can be made using green sticks (not dry), twine and a few feathers for decoration. Sticks can be notched using the edges of stones. Tying on arrowheads isn't necessary, but the boys can give it a try if time permits. Atlatls, or sphere throwers, are too complicated to make, but attending a demonstration to see how they were crafted and used is an option. Many state parks have demonstrations scheduled on a regular basis.
Week Three: Dressing Like a Native
The Indian headdress is iconic, and can be fashioned from construction paper. Decorate them with real feathers, if you can. Face painting and tattooing was also practiced and can be simulated using face painting materials bought at a store or created naturally from clay and other substances found in nature. Loincloths are cut from imitation leather or earth-toned canvas. Worn either as one piece extending from back to front and held in place with a belt of leather or braided twine, or two pieces worn as flaps in both back and front held with the same type of belt. Either way, the boys will likely want to wear them atop their own clothes.
Week Four: The Potlatch
A meeting that includes a campfire (the monthly pack meeting) and some food is a great way to teach the song, dance and storytelling traditions of the American Indian. Visit the apples4theteacher website, which lists Native American short stories, for ideas. Dances were not complicated, using only a few impromptu steps that children can easily mimic. Songs were chanted with accompanying drums made of wood, hollow logs or tree stumps. Stories were recited animatedly by Native Americans and retold the tales of their forefathers. Leaders can take turns telling stories. The scouts should all bring their bow and arrows, wear their costumes and use their sign language during this finale.
- Inquiry; Outdoors: Native American Sign Language Simplified
- Primitive Ways: Simple, Cheap and Effective Bows and Arrows
- Media Wiley: Songs and Dancing
- Hanksville: Native American Storytelling
- Apples 4 the Teacher: Social Studies: Native American Short Stories
- Artists Helping Children; How to Make Indian Costumes -- Crafts for Kids
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