The Rey Center is bringing Abenaki programs to the Waterville Valley Elementary School (WVES) this year.
According to the Rey Center’s blog, WVES 3rd, 4th and 5th graders 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 students learning about New Hampshire’s place in the world and geology, then 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 focusing on project-based learning, which is what the Rey Center specializes in. For the last five years the Rey Center has provided experiential science programs for WVES students and occasional special programs 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 past summer Rael helped with the Rey Center’s Nature Trek program and making pottery with campers. Rael also planted corn and beans in the community garden and was hoping to have a feast with what he harvested. So Rael and Rey Center staff began to brainstorm ideas which culminated in the creation of an Abenaki unit that incorporates gardening, pottery, games and a harvest dinner.
The unit began with students learning about three sisters gardening and what it might have been like to find food as an Abenaki 400 years ago. During the second program, students learned how the Abenaki might have made pottery and then created their own bowls.
Rael pre-fired 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 and 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.