Our year-long essential understanding revolves around the idea that culture reflects environment. In other words, what we do, what we believe in, how we act is directly tied to where we live. This theme re-presents itself throughout our curriculum but also in the world around us. I use this as a guide not only in the classroom but in also discussing contemporary issues that can leave students feeling worried and confused.
To kick off this theme, we learned about the five primary Native American cultural regions and how various groups of people had to adapt to their environment in order to survive. From this different cultures emerged that reflected their unique environments. Students studied the regions, their similarities and differences, as well as their unique customs and traditions. We spent a significant amount of time focused on Native American origin stories, which reflected the unique ways people tried to explain their natural world (without the aid of modern Science and Google!) We studied stories and worked backwards to identify environmental themes that could pinpoint the specific culture they emerged from. To end the unit, students wrote an origin story of their own, including details that would signal to other students what cultural region their story might have emerged from. I was both amazed and impressed by their creativity and encourage you to try this with your own students in order to help reiterate the beauty and diversity of culture that emerges from our varied backgrounds and environments. The materials can be found here on my Teachers Pay Teachers dashboard.