Day 140: The American West

Today was our first meeting of Geography Club in several weeks, because of weather and illness. All of the kids were frankly more excited to see each other than they were to learn about the American West, but nevertheless, learn about the American West we did. And we made it through to free play time, wherein fun was had by all.

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Exploration table for the American West.

Miss P and I set up a literature table and an exploration table as we have in previous weeks. We had various animals that live in the west, some Southwestern crafts, an animal bone and a fossil that I’d found myself hiking in New Mexico when I lived there.

We looked at the exploration table, we looked at maps,  I read two books: one about the prairie, one about the desert.

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There was a lot of asking kids to stop playing Legos, stop talking, pay attention. Whenever that happens, I always feel like we aren’t doing our jobs well enough. If we do our jobs well, then we don’t need to TELL the kids to pay attention.

Boy reading during 'research' time.
Boy reading during ‘research’ time.

We had some time to look at the books; Boy and Girl and Miss P’s little girl were the most interested in books this time, the other kids not so much. That’s another area where we need to brainstorm a way to manage things a little better. Either finding a way to get the other kids more interested in looking at the books, or giving them an alternative activity. We did suggest that the boys do a United States puzzle when they weren’t interested in coloring, and they LOVED that, and you could hear them telling each things they knew about the states, which was lovely and brilliant.

Then we played a video of a Taos Pueblo boy doing the Eagle dance, and we had hoped the kids would enthusiastically try doing the dance, too. Girl and her little friend danced with us, and very well! Which was adorable. The other kids flatly refused. Boy told me later he felt embarrassed, and we decided we would practice doing dances and whatever at home, so he has some time to mentally prepare. I really want to create an atmosphere in Geography Club where the kids WANT to try to do these things, so I’ll be thinking about that this week.

Our final, and most successful, activity today was the craft. We brought little clay pots and books about Southwestern pottery so the kids could look at some of the geometric patterns, and then had them paint. We explained that because the Pueblo people lived in the desert, they didn’t necessarily have materials to make colorful paints, and Pueblo pottery was mostly painted with black, white, and brown colors, in beautiful designs.

To avoid Boy having a hard time if he made a wrong brush stroke, we bought craft tape for him to make a pattern on his pot, and then paint over it in one color (black) so that when the paint dried he could peel off the tape and have a pattern on his pot. That worked really well. All of the kids made a genuine effort on their pots, and they turned out nicely (in a 5-8 year old kind of way).

Girl's and Boy's Southwestern pottery designs.
Girl’s and Boy’s Southwestern pottery designs.

After all of the activities, we had Western lunch, and let the kids play for almost an hour before we went home.

Next week: Mexico!

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We’ve been reading about Mexico here and there for a couple of weeks, but today I set out all of our library books on the table, with a 3D globe puzzle the kids put together last week. Boy asked me to read one about the Aztec empire to them at bedtime tonight, and they were both really interested in that. Girl wants to do a Day of the Dead craft, too, this week, and I’m really hoping I find the time (and the materials!) To be continued.

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