The Butterflies have been learning about the Lenape, a tribe of Native Americans who lived in this area. We read about Lenape homes then built a wigwam to use for Lenape role-playing. We learned to say please (ksi) and thank you (wanishi) in the Lenape language. We played Lenape games like jackstraws and puhsahn. We learned that the Lenape used symbols to write instead of letters, and the children wrote their own stories using the Lenape symbols. They also put these symbols on their “deerskin” shirts. After several discussions about what the Lenape ate and where they got their food (the men hunted and the women gathered and farmed) we planned our own Lenape feast. The Butterflies wrote a book about the Lenape and each child will get a turn to take it home for a day after Thanksgiving break.
We used the corn that Blair, Charlie and Mills’ families gave us to work on a number of skills including numeral recognition, one to one correspondence, counting, pincer grasp, estimating, weighing and measuring. We did an experiment with popcorn to find out what would happen if we dyed the kernels different colors before we popped them. We used red, blue and green food coloring then hypothesized about the results. One friend thought the colored kernels would still be white when popped and everyone else thought they would be colored. We graphed our hypotheses then popped the corn to test them. It turned out that everyone was right. The kernels were white with colored insides.
We have been working on patterning in the Butterfly Room and making medicine beads gave us a chance to practice an ABB pattern. That particular pattern in medicine beads means to “take away tears.”
Instead of our usual play dough, the children have been using real clay and Theraputty. Both of these media are excellent for strengthening muscles in the fingers, wrists and hands, which helps with pencil grip and handwriting. We did use play dough to make our Lenape clay cooking pots then we painted them to make them look like clay.
We played several games to sharpen the children’s visual discrimination skills. One of them was Bird Bingo. This was much harder than many of the games we play. The children had to look very closely at details to see if they had a bird on their card that matched what was being called. Another game was Animal Track Memory. One card had an animal on it and the other had the animal’s footprint. Both cards had the animal’s name on it, so the children were actually matching letters. They have also been matching letters to figure out what their color word is at snack time, and some of the children are able to read some of the color words now.
I think the children really enjoyed learning about the Lenape, and I was proud of how much they seemed to understand and remember about a culture different from their own. But, of course, you can never be sure what is going on in the minds of four and five year olds. As we were getting ready to prepare the corncakes for the feast one of the Butterflies asked if we were going to wear the “helmets” we had made. A friend corrected him saying, “Those aren’t helmets. They’re headrests.”