Fifth Graders Study Indigenous Peoples and Bears Ears National Monument

In April 2018, After-School Program Director David Worton traveled to southeast Utah to learn about Ancestral Puebloan history and its connection to modern Pueblo people, and about land use issues in the Four-Corners region. This expedition, supported by Brandeis, has led to the creation of a new social studies unit in fifth grade, which is being co-taught by Mr. Worton and humanities teacher Kaitlyn Huston. Using ancestral and modern Puebloan peoples as a frame to study American Indigenous peoples, fifth graders have spent this unit answering these questions: How is the past connected to the present for Indigenous people? What do Indigenous people think is important for us to know about them and what are they doing to preserve and maintain their culture? And, why are land use issues important in the Four-Corners region? “I want the students to consider that public lands belong to them, that they are the government, and that this same land also belongs to the indigenous people who have sacred and ancient connections to it,” says Mr. Worton. Students learned about Ancestral Puebloan sites and artifacts, Hopi origin stories and clan migrations, and the controversy about Bears Ears National Monument, among other things. Finally, students were challenged to form their own opinions about whether the monument should be preserved in its original size or reduced.
Says Ms. Huston, “It has been important to me to be teaching social studies through voices that typically go under-heard. Students are really engaged in learning about indigenous peoples and cultures, especially with first-hand knowledge from Mr. Worton.” Mr. Worton will return to co-teach when fifth grade social studies continues with early explorers. MORE PHOTOS