Fourth Graders Examine Colonizers' Impact on California's First Peoples

Coming on the heels of the First Peoples Cultural Center (in late November), the fourth graders have begun their study of colonizers in California and their impact on the region's indigenous peoples. Using resources from Facing History, students are learning to think critically about historical documents and how different perspectives may affect the telling of history. Using inferential skills, students are looking at diaries, letters, and resource materials to understand how colonizers perceived the Indigenous peoples and what misconceptions they developed from a lack of knowledge. The classes, as experts in their topics, have been surprised and disappointed by the lack of awareness the Spanish had for the nations’ culture, particularly their religion.
Students have selected an explorer to focus on in a small group. They will categorize information into what they perceive to be positive and negative effects on the tribes they interacted with, create timelines, and draw maps documenting the routes taken. They will be presenting these to their classes as a group. This project is an excellent opportunity for them to build on their tech skills in Google Slides and practice sharing information in a variety of ways. 

In planning and developing this curriculum, general studies teachers Kate Callan and Valerie Welsh reflected that “Fourth grade’s Essential Questions include ‘What creates change in a system?’ and this project is an excellent example of how the cultural impact of encounters creates change. It is valuable to reflect on these encounters to see how misconceptions develop from close-mindedness and assumptions. Through studying this process, students can reflect on how to positively interact with those who seem different and how to hold space for uniqueness while finding ways for establishing systems that work for everyone.”