Fourth Grade Pow Wow

The Fourth Grade Pow Wow is a grade level culmination of the study of Native American Culture. Previous to the Pow Wow, which began in about 2003, each classroom learned about and built artifacts from each major US region, or native culture. In 2003, the fourth grade teachers decided that it would benefit student learning if each classroom concentrated on one region of the US: Plains, North East, South East, South West or Pacific. They also decided to study the unit at the same time so that the students could share each room’s knowledge with the rest of the 4th grade classes at the final Pow Wow, a grade level celebration.

During the unit the c
hildren build model villages, read historical fiction, write their own myths, and make many Native artifacts during their Art periods. The art teacher does a pit firing of clay in the Fall. The students fire their pots or art pieces by placing their clay piece into a pit of hot stones. It is then covered with more coals and dirt, and left for the day. At the end of the day, they all return to take their work “out of the oven,” simulating the way pots were fired in earlier times.

All students write a myth using facts and styles from their specific culture. For example, in “Why the Snow is White,” by Aidan Connolly, the story revealed how the cold river saved the day by pleasing the sun with the sacrifice of a whale, so the sun turned the black snow to white.  Lauren Koval disclosed how the moose got its long legs in her myth, “How Moose Got So Tall.”

Most of the stories begin, a long, long time ago: “Way back when the world was new, deep and dark in the forest, Moose didn’t have antlers…,” Molly Seibel begins her myth, “How Moose Got His Antlers.”  In telling “How Night Came To Be,” Mary Feyrer begins, “Back when the earth was young, all the people and animals lived together on the Great Plains….”

At parent night, the students open the Pow Wow with a Poem, “Circles.” The poem embodies native belief so the Pow Wow opens with all the 4th graders standing in a circle around the Multi and reciting the poem. Recently signing has been added to the recitation.


Everything an Indian does is in a circle
because the power of the world
always works in circles,
and everything tries to be round.
The sky is round,
and the earth is round like a ball,
and so are all the starts.
The wind, in its greatest power, whirls.
Birds make their nests in circles,
for their religion is the same as ours.
The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle.
The moon does the same and both are round.
Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing
and always come back again to where they were.
The life of man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and
so it is in everything where power moves.

Oglala Sioux

After the opening the parents and guests are treated to a “museum” of artifacts; an original myth from each class is read and both artwork from the classrooms and work done in the Art room are on display.

All the kids read their myths in smaller groupings.

Also displayed are the constructions of the shelters depicting the homes of the different cultures. In constructing these the students try to use only natural materials.

They are carefully researched because the details in them are wonderful.

The structures are left on display in the library long after the unit of study ends, so all children in the school can study them.

The Pow Wow has become an event that the fourth graders look forward to.

Ingrid Stallsmith

Pam Force

Fourth Grade Teachers

June, 2009