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6-8 > U.S. History
Grade level: 6-8 Subject: U.S. History Duration: Three class periods
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Students will understand the following:
1. North America includes a vast variety of cultural traditions.
2. Cultural traditions show up in festivals, landscape design and structures, and symbols.
3. Multiple cultures must coexist, so conflicts must be resolved.

For this lesson, you will need:
Long roll of brown paper
Paints, markers, magazines to cut up, scrap material, and so on for creating illustrations on brown paper
Tacks or other means of mounting the long roll of brown paper on a wall

1. To underscore the special quality of the city, suburb, or rural area we all call home, and in the tradition of the great Mexican muralists, tell the class that they will jointly create a mural in celebration of their home (city, suburb, or rural area).
2. The planning phase for the mural involves, first, determining how long and how tall a roll of brown paper you can affix to a wall in the school and, second, how many groups of students will work on it and, therefore, how many segments the mural will have. As much as possible, let students help to resolve the second question by considering all the different things a visitor might want to know about the city, suburb, or rural area, such as the following:
  • History of the place, including its founding, its naming, and major events such as battles, natural disasters, changes, expansion or contraction
  • Residents—age groups and cultural groups represented among the citizenry
  • Landmarks—buildings or natural sites
  • Resources and industries or services for which the place is known
In short, the students must figure outwhat must be recordedandwhat should be celebratedabout the city, suburb, or rural area. A related issue: Will the student groups include the titles of their segments on the mural itself or on a card that they will mount with the mural?
3. Assign one group of students to work on each proposed segment of the mural.
4. Before working on the brown paper itself, each group should brainstorm about its segment, making a list of people, places, objects, and symbols that the group associates with its assigned segment. Make sure the groups keep a written or illustrated record of their brainstorming thoughts.
5. Next, the groups must decide in what ways or in what order they will present their people, places, objects, and symbols. Will they create a chronological, narrative presentation on their part of the mural, or will they mix people, places, objects, and symbols together in a collage format?
6. A related question the groups must consider is what materials or techniques of art to use on the mural—paint? pastels? markers? silhouettes? cutout shapes of various designs and textures? fragments of textured materials? Should the entire mural use the same materials or techniques or vary from segment to segment?
7. When the preceding questions are resolved, students in each group should proceed to work up a maquette, or small-scale version, of their segment to assess positioning, placement, and color combinations. You may want the whole class to respond to each group’s visual draft, working out disagreements as necessary.
8. Finally, students should put media to brown paper and, jointly, create a mural of the place they live.
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Adaptations for Older Students:
In lieu of a mural, challenge students to create a videotaped documentary that covers the history of their hometown and explores current practices and issues.
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Discussion Questions

1. The Festival of San Marcos seems to celebrate the town's Spanish (European) heritage much more than its Indian heritage. Why have the people of San Marcos chosen to emphasize their European background more than their Indian background?
2. To many residents of the U.S., bullfighting looks cruel and inhumane; to many residents of Latin American and European countries, bullfighting is an artistic and noble part of their culture. What customs, institutions, or sports which seem perfectly acceptable and humane in the U.S. could be viewed as cruel and/or inhumane when viewed from another culture?

3. In Travelers Canada, we learned about the King of the Klondike festival that takes place every year in Edmonton, Canada. Does your city, town or neighborhood have a festival to celebrate its history and culture? What contests are or could be held to show off the skills, strengths, and knowledge that are considered valuable?

4. At the end of the segment, the three "travelers" are discussing whether or not they could live on the open range like the cowboys did. Could you spend a week, a month, or a summer living in the wilderness, surviving by your own skills and wits? Which of our "modern conveniences" could you do without, and which would you HAVE to have?
5. What happens when one culture expands into another? How does each culture influence the other? What determines which culture will be dominant?

6. To Native Americans, an eagle feather is something that must be earned by accomplishing something "remarkable, memorable, or gracious." It is then worn with pride and honor. What "rites of passage" exist in your culture? What is the value of this type of challenge?
7. This segment introduces Sky and Valerie, two young Native Americans whose lives incorporate both their traditional Native American culture and the modern U.S. culture. What advantages and disadvantages do you think they experience living in these two fairly different cultures?
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In this project, where the end product is dependent on timely input from many students, you may want to rate individuals on cooperative spirit, on-time performance, response to criticism, perseverance, and so on.
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A Floating Parade
In celebration of cultural and other groups in your area, have students plan a parade. In groups, they should design floats for the parade. Each group should first articulate what its float will communicate to observers, then draw pictures of the float, and finally make a model of the float. Each model should be put on display and accompanied by an index card that explains the design and details of the float.

Cultural Rites of Passage
Definerites of passagefor your students as rituals associated with changes in an individual’s status. Mention one or two common rites of passage in your community, and elicit others from students. Examples can include established religious rites of passage such as first communion, bar or bat mitzvah, and confirmation; other life-cycle events such as engagement and marriage; school milestones such as promotion and graduation; other age-related rites of passage such as driver’s license test and voting in local and national elections. For each example, ask students to list the skills, knowledge, or accomplishments a person must master to complete the rite of passage. Conclude this project by asking students to write paragraphs explaining why societies, organizations, and governments establish rites of passage.

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Suggested Readings


The Wild Country of Mexico

John Annerino, Sierra Club Books, 1994
Mexico's social customs are vividly depicted in the numerous color photographs of the descriptive guide. Text is offered in both English and Spanish.

My Lost Mexico
James A. Michener, State House Press, 1992
The famed American author offers his own photographs of Mexico, accompanied by commentary on the topics of bullfights and the country Mexico itself in literature.


Bonanza West: The Story of the Western Mining Rushes, 1848-1900
William S. Greever, Univesity of Idaho Press, 1991
This is a reprint of a 1963 classic work on the gold discoveries in the Klondike River Valley of the Yukon as well as those in the western U.S., which includes coverage of the social impacts of the mining.

The Call of the Wild
Jack London, Macmillan, 1994
This is a reprint of the classic representation of the Klondike gold discoveries in Jack London’s story, which revolves around the adventures of a special dog who comes to lead a pack of wolves.


U.S. Gazetteer of the U.S. Census Bureau
U.S. Census Bureau
Browse the Census Bureau's Tiger Maps, in which the viewer can, for a given place, "redraw" the map to show such features as Indian reservations, of water, highways and streets, parks, and cities and towns in and around the chosen place.

Songs of the Old West [sound recording]
Dan Dalton, Rincon Children's Entertainment, 1993
Folk songs of the American West relate an important part of our cultural heritage and depict the cowboy lifestyle.


Blue Dawn, Red Earth: New Native American Storytellers
Clifford E. Trafzer, Anchor Books, 1996
This compilation of stories with such titles as "The Last Rattlesnake Throw" and "A Belated Letter to Christopher Columbus" offer glimpses of contemporary and traditional Native North American folklore and social customs.

The Native Tribes of North America: A Concise Encyclopedia
Michael G. Johnson, New York: Macmillan, 1993
Extensive photographs and color plates with annotations explain notable, distinctive dress, crafts, ceremonies, tools, and instruments of all of the various tribes of Native Americans.

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Canadian Atlas
Teachers will find links to enable students to create their own maps, cartography terms and a bilingual bibliography for the study of geography.

Mayan Hieroglyphics
At this site, students will find Mayan languages charts, sound files, hieroglyphic syllabry, and other material that is both quaint and pertinent.

Project L.I.S.T.E.N.
What the viewer will find at this site is a lesson plan database from the archives of Project L.I.S.T.E.N.--these letters stand for Listen, Internet for Students and Teachers, Education Net. Based on Bloom's Taxonomy, these lessons on Native Americans can be used as they are, or can be adapted for the study of indigenous Americans.

A New Mexico Timeline (part of the Native American History Resources onthe Internet)
Provides a timeline of the state's history from 1536 to 1970 with hot links to important people and places in the state.

The Wyoming Companion--Rodeo
The "western" flavor of this site is immediate sensed by the viewer upon opening. Learn about Native American tales, read cowboy poetry, view Western art, and join the move west as you read the intimate thoughts of a pioneer woman's journal.


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Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    matador
Definition:A bullfighter who has the principal role and who kills the bull in a bullfight.
Context:The Espinosa family comes from a long line of matadors or toreros.

speaker    conquistador
Definition:A leader in the Spanish conquest of America, especially of Mexico and Peru, in the 16th century.
Context:The tradition (of bullfighting) came from Spain with the conquistadors, practicing for war.

speaker    torero
Definition:A matador or a member of his cuadrilla or team.
Context:Three toreros will face a total of six toros (bulls).

speaker    picador
Definition:A horseman in a bullfight who jabs the bull with a lance to weaken its neck and shoulder muscles.
Context:The picadors come out on horses covered with blankets and steel plating.

speaker    banderilleros
Definition:One who thrusts the banderillas, or decorated barbed darts, into the neck or shoulders of a bull in a bullfight.
Context:Then the banderilleros come out with what looks like flowered spikes.

speaker    boomtown
Definition:A town enjoying an economic or population boom or rapid growth.
Context:Klondike Days commemorates a time during the gold rush of the 1890s when Edmonton was just a frontier boomtown.

speaker    pelt
Definition:The skin of an animal with its hair, wool, or fur.
Context:The most valuable fur in the early 1800s was the beaver pelt.

speaker    portage
Definition:The carrying of boats or goods overland from one body of water to another.
Context:"Canoe portage" is one of the events in the King of the Klondike contest.

speaker    homesteaders
Definition:People who acquired or settled on land under the Homestead laws in the mid-1800s that authorized the sale of public lands to settlers.
Context:Jackson Wyoming's character and mythic grandeur have always been shaped by Native Americans, trappers, explorers, and homesteaders.

speaker    rendezvous
Definition:A place for meeting or gathering or the act of meeting or gathering at an appointed place and time.
Context:The Mountain Man Rendezvous is a gathering of unique characters.

speaker    tomahawk
Definition:A light axe used as a hand weapon by some Native North Americans.
Context:At the Rendezvous they visit, trade, shoot, and throw tomahawks.

speaker    chuck wagon
Definition:A wagon carrying supplies and provisions for cooking, usually on a ranch.
Context:A chuck wagon was used in the cattle drives. The cook would take off first, make a camp, and when the herd rode in, the cook would have the meal lined up.

speaker    powwow
Definition:A Native American ceremony or a social get-together.
Context:The Gathering of Nations is the largest powwow in the world, but it is only one of thousands that take place in North America each year.

speaker    pueblo
Definition:The communal dwelling of Native American villages in the southwestern U.S. consisting of flat-roofed stone or adobe (clay) houses. (Pueblo Indians: A group of Native American people from the southwestern U.S.)
Context:The 19 traditional pueblos of New Mexico have always welcomed any and all tribes to their land.

speaker    kiva
Definition:A Pueblo Indian ceremonial structure that is usually round and partly underground.
Context:Indian people believe that life began out of the ground. They consider it coming out of the kiva.

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This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
Grade level:K-2
Subject area:history
Understands selected attributes and historical developments of societies in the Americas.
Knows the holidays and ceremonies of different societies in the Americas.

Grade level:K-2
Subject area:history
Understands selected attributes and historical developments of societies in the Americas.
Understands the daily life, history, and beliefs of a country as reflected in dance, music or other art forms.

Grade level:6-8
Subject area:U.S. history
Understands how the early Europeans interacted with Native Americans in the Americas.
Understands the cultural and environmental impacts of European settlements in North America.

Grade level:6-8
Subject area:geography
Understands the physical and human characteristics of place.
Knows the human characteristics of a place.

Grade level:6-8
Subject area:geography
Understands the physical and human characteristics of place.
Knows the physical characteristics of a place.

Grade level:6-8
Subject area:geography
Understands the nature and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics.
Knows ways in which communities reflect the cultural background of their inhabitants.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:U.S. history
Understands how the early Europeans and Africans interacted with Native Americans in the Americas.
Understands the nature of the interaction between Native Americans and various settlers (e.g., the diversity of Native American interactions with English, French, and Dutch settlers; Native American involvement in th European wars for control between 1675 and 1763).

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:geography
Understands the nature and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics.
Knows how cultures influence the characteristics of regions (e.g., level of technological achievement, cultural traditions, social institutions).

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:geography
Understands the nature and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics.
Understands how human characteristics make specific regions of the world distinctive (e.g., the effects of early Spanish settlement in the southwestern United States; the specific qualities of Canada's culture regions resulting from the patterns of migration and settlement over four centuries).

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Kristen W. Rooks, educator consultant for Discovery Channel School and Summer Productions.
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