This year the 3rd-5th graders at Waterville Valley Elementary School (WVES) are getting to experience New Hampshire history first hand. Their teacher Kate Smarz had the brilliant idea to have social studies correlate with science. The school year began with NH's place in the World and geology, moved on to native people of New Hampshire (Abenaki) and ecosystems, and will go on to cover explorers & settlers and electricity. This year WVES is also focused on project based learning which is precisely what the Rey Center programs strive for. For the last 5 years the Rey Center has provided experiential science programs for WVES and an occasional special program like family astronomy. About a year ago Rael Gleitsman, a resident of Waterville Valley, began volunteering with the Rey Center. Rael is an avid gardener and a master potter. This summer Rael helped with our Nature Trek program making pottery with campers. Rael also planted corn & beans in the community garden and was hoping to have a feast with what he harvested. So we began to brainstorm ideas and we ended up with an Abenaki unit including gardening, pottery, games, and a harvest dinner.
Rael prefired the bowls in the school's kiln and dug a pit in the community garden for the finishing fire. The students brought their bowls to the fire and Rael carefully placed them around the edge to heat up slowly. Once the bowls were warm they were placed in the fire pit and sticks were stacked on top.
While the bowls were in the fire students read native american legends that they wrote and played traditional Native American games like ball & triangle and little pines. The final program will be a feast with traditional Native American dishes like succotash n'nuts and three sisters soup. The best part is that students will get to eat out of the bowls that they created! By the end of the Abenaki unit WVES students will have a better sense of what it might have been like living in New Hampshire before European's arrived.