What’s My Line?: Activity 5.4


Native American Culture Curriculum Unit 5.4
Task Author: Bob Valiant
Task Title: What’s My Line?
Grade Level: 3-5 Activity # 5.4
Geography Grade 5 Benchmark

Brief Overview of Task:

Students will be given a supply of long grass or other fiber-rich material (cattail leaves, corn husks, etc.) and instructed to use it to create cordage (string, thread, or rope) that could be used to fasten objects together by sewing or tying. After they attempt this they will research Native American techniques for making cordage and practice the technique to construct a display of cordage from different materials.

Targeted Benchmark:
Understand how human activities are affected by the physical environment.
Understand how the physical environment presents opportunities for economic activity.

Recommended Prerequisite Student Knowledge and Skills:
Knowledge of the local area
Research on the Internet
Materials Needed:
Materials Generally Available:
Special Items: (Teacher must provide)
Long grass
Cattail leaves and stems
Corn husks
Lily leaves
Other fiber-rich local material
Citation and Helpful Resources: (i.e. books, web sites, etc.)
Internet: http://www.ncesd.k12.or.us/native/native.htm
Technology: Native Tech (Go to the bottom of the page, click “home”, then look for weaving and cordage).
Do a “Google Search” on “cordage making”
Recommended Classroom Time: (in hours)
3-5 hours

Detailed Description of Task for Teachers:
1. The teacher passes out examples of thread, string, twine, and rope then leads a discussion on the uses of this type of material. Attributes of “good” cordage can be listed. Have the students describe the material the cordage is made of and look for similarities in the appearance across the range of products.
2. Native Americans needed cordage too. List some of the uses they might have had.
3. Since Native Americans had to rely on the local environment for all of their needs, what sources might be used that match up with the attributes of the commercial materials just examined? List on the board.
4. The class is divided into small groups and each is given a supply of dry local material (long grass, cattail leaves, milkweed, corn husks, lily leaves, etc.) from which they are to attempt to make cord. The teacher should not be directive at this point. Students should explore possibilities. If a group succeeds at the task it is okay to have them share what they learned with others in the class.
5. Each group shares their results with the class and discusses the strengths and weaknesses of each material.
6. Students use the internet to research Native American cordage manufacture and attempt to refine their own process based on what they have learned.
7. Students create a display of the various types of cordage they have made. They include a written description of the raw materials, the process they used, possible applications of the cordage produced, and its strengths and weaknesses.
Additional Contexts and /or Possible Extensions of Task:
Students can research various tribes across the continent to see what materials are used in various places. A written report can be prepared.


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