Second graders have been studying the Cherokee and Creek nations in their homerooms. I wanted to do a STEM lab to reinforce the major concepts that they have been learning, and I believe multidisciplinary learning is a best practice in education. The two big ideas were: Native people used the resources that were available to them and the area in which they lived determined their culture. We briefly discussed the Native Americans who lived in the Eastern woodlands, plains, and Southwest, but our lab focused on how the people groups who lived on the plains constructed tipis – an amazing engineering feat! The people who inhabited the Great Plains were nomadic and followed the buffalo. Click here to watch an informative video. Click here to read an article about tipis.
This proved to be a difficult task, especially since we were not working on the ground. As we faced challenges, we collaborated to overcome them, and failed forward. We learned that the shape of a tipi is a cone. We cut a circle to form our cones and folded the circle twice to find the center. We drew a smaller circle around the center and cut a slit to it. One of my students compared this process to a Christmas tree skirt-a useful analogy!