Exploring other Cultures: Indigenous Peoples in the Americas -Wampum (Bead Projects)

Wampum (Bead Projects) (Projects can follow on consecutive weeks) A group project that inspires sharing and team building and is age appropriate for elementary school and middle school. Vocabulary: Pattern, repetition, jewelry making Materials:Plastic containers, fishing line, plastic tubing and scissors. Directions:
  1. Read http://www.nativetech.org/wampum/wamphist.htm
  2. Shell beads in the Northeast have been found that are 4,500 years old. These shell beads were difficult to make—a stone drill was used to form them—and were used for trade in ceremonial contexts, in part because of the connection of shell with water and its life-giving properties.
  3. Students each get a section of different color tubing to cut into various sizes of  wampum beads which they place in a cup or plate.
  4. Students trade beads with each other.
  5. Demonstrate the concept of 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 and 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?