Free Lesson Plan: Indigenous Peoples in the Americas Culture, Wampum Bead Project

Exploring other Cultures: Indigenous Peoples in the Americas 

Wampum Bead Projects (Projects can follow on consecutive weeks)

A group project that inspires sharing and team building

Elementary school and Middle school age appropriate

Vocabulary: Pattern, repetition, jewelry making

Materials: Plastic containers, fishing line, plastic tubing, scissors

Directions:

  1. Read http://www.nativetech.org/wampum/wamphist.htm
  2. Shell beads in the Northeast have been found that are 4500 years old. These shell beads were difficult to make using a stone drill to form and were used for trade within ceremonial contexts, in part for the connections of shell with water and its life giving properties.
  3. Students each get a section of different color tubing to cut into certain size wampum beads which they each place in a cup or plate
  4. Students trade beads
  5. Demonstrate pattern
  6. Students create a pattern on plate
  7. Students knot one end of fishing line with a bead (can be prepped in advance) and string beads on fishing line.
  8. Students knot other end of fishing line with a bead then tie both ends together

Opportunity for Discussion and play:

  • How does this project inspire sharing and team building?
  • What is trade?
  • Do you ever exchange products or services?
  • Why do countries foster trade?
  • What are trade embargoes?
  • What are the pros and cons of using money versus wampum?
  • What makes your necklace special?
  • Will you keep or give away your necklace?

See also: Tent and Canoe Projects and Paper Bear Projects

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