As part of a multi-year collaboration between MED and the Flying Deer Nature Center of New Lebanon, fourth-grade students explored Native American history and their relationship with the natural world by building an Iroquois (also known as Haudenosaunee) inspired longhouse on the MED campus.
Work on the longhouse began in the spring of 2015, when fourth graders constructed the building’s frame out of saplings, and in 2016 sheathed the walls and roof with bark.
With the longhouse up and standing this year, the fourth grade used the structure as an outdoor learning center on May 16th and 17th. In particular, they studied how a simple plant like the cattail played an important role to both people and animals as a utility and food.
Flying Deer program director Devin Franklin showed the students how to make mats out of cattails, like those the Haudenosaunee people once used to protect themselves from the cold, damp ground. Students also learned how to make cordage by weaving several fibers together into one.
Inside the longhouse, Mr. Franklin told the Native American legend of the dreamcatcher and sang songs about wild leeks with the students.
The fourth graders also learned about the cycle of life and energy in the natural world by putting on an interactive play titled “Life in the Cattail Swamp.” Under Mr. Franklin’s direction, the students assumed the roles of energy from the sun, cattail plants, birds, muskrats, minks, decomposers such as worms, and people. The classes acted out how all these things found in the swamp interact with each other to form a web of life.
This three-year program was sponsored by the Chatham Education Foundation of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation.
To learn more about the Flying Deer Nature Center, please visit flyingdeernaturecenter.org