Middle Schoolers Explore and Expand on Native American History

Sep 22, 2021 | Blog, Middle School News

In Middle School Humanities, Kevin Day’s Grade 7 students have been questioning how might we explore and expand on a US history textbook about National history and experience. Throughout the students’ unit on Native American history, the focus was on the Muscogee Nation.

The Muscogee Nation, a self-governed Native American tribe in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, is one of the Five Civilized Tribes and the fourth largest tribe in the United States with 86,100 citizens. They are a diverse entity with many facets such as cultural tourism, gaming, businesses, and a higher learning institution.

While they reside in Oklahoma, the Muscogee Nation also claims large parts of what is now Georgia and Alabama as their ancestral homeland. Throughout this unit in Humanities, students are exploring the history, experiences, and identity of those who first called this part of the world their home, but who all-too-often get left out of traditional history books.

Recently, grade 7 Humanities students were joined virtually by John Beaver, the Curator of the Cultural Center and Archives Department for the Muscogee Nation. In preparation for their MVXpert interview, they brainstormed and came up with their own questions.

How did you find your way to this work?

Can you talk about your process for making a museum exhibit? How do you find the balance between making it informative and entertaining?

What aspects of Muscogee history or culture feel most challenging or difficult to tell?

Grade 7 student Alice Parker shared, “On a topic like this, students have so many questions. Our interview with Mr. Beaver was so helpful because he was able to answer so many of them – including some that we had, but weren’t sure how to ask.” Her teacher, Mr. Kevin Day, went on to add that during this project, Alice even took initiative to reach out to Mr. Beaver, seeking a follow-up interview.

In Margaret Robbins’ Humanities classes, students explored text from Fry Bread, We Are Water Protectors, The Jingle Dancer, We Are Grateful, and We Are Still Here – all books that relate to the Native American experience. With these books in mind, students designed their own picture books about identity.

Grade 7 Humanities Teacher Margaret Robbins shared, “It was rewarding to me as a teacher to see students tell their own stories about identity after gaining inspiration from Native American picture books. They showed a solid understanding of narrative techniques as well as visual storytelling elements.

Living out the School’s mission and IDEA statement, students in Humanities have also explored themes including overcoming obstacles and challenging assumptions, knowing that when we share our authentic selves, we can design a better world together.