OSSINING, N.Y. Using branches and bark from local trees, fourth graders at Claremont School have made an authentic wigwam as part of their Native American studies.
"I think that it's a great experience to be building a wigwam to see what it was like to build homes using stuff from nature," said Katherine Gomez.
Gomez and her classmates spent part of their day on Thursday pounding basswood branches to make it easier to strip off long pieces of bark to be used in tying parts of the wigwam together.
"It's fun when you hit the other stick to peel the bark," said Veneleise Fermin.
Native American crafts expert Barry Keegan, who has built exhibits for the Ellis Island and the Staten Island Museums, was busy finishing up a bed inside the wigwam on Thursday, with the help of students who tied knots using strips of bark.
"This was a very common shelter for all the Algonquin tribes," Keegan said. "This wigwam would be typical for a four-person family. The parents would sleep in one bed and two children could sleep in the other bed, and there would be a fire pit in the middle that they could feed without having to get up out of bed."
Micki Lockwood, an enrichment teacher at Claremont School who came up with the idea to make a wigwam along with fellow teachers Kevin Kasney and Matt Young, said students liked wigwam making so much that at the end of the day, they didn't want to go home, they wanted to stay and work on the wigwam.
"This is project-based learning. We ask a big question, 'What was it like to live as a Native American?' and project-based learning is about having a hands-on experience so you internalize the learning," Lockwood said.
Aside from building the wigwam, fourth graders also learned about geographic features that made the Ossining area desirable for the Sint Sinck Indians, tools and weapons used by Native Americans, typical Native American food, and what Native American ceremonies were like.
Funding for the wigwam project was made possible through a grant from the Ossining MATTERS Education Foundation, and the Ossining Historical Society donated Native American artifacts that were displayed in a "museum" classroom.
"It's really fun and it's cool to make houses out of just stuff you find around you," said student Max Saich.
Classmate Christian St. Vil agreed.
"It's fun to make it because it's like what Native Americans made when they wanted to have a house," he said.
Join TheDailyOssining.com on Facebook.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.