Eagle Hill students get hands-on lesson in American history

If Howard Gorman, a history teacher at Eagle Hill School has his way, the students in his American History class will know about both an intellectual and physical level about the growth of America.

To encourage their interest in a unit on Native Americans of the Northeast, Mr. Gorman shared tales that the native peoples used to tell around the campfires, exploring their use of totems and mythology to explain how the earth was seeded and the animals came to be.

The students then chose a tribe, selected an animal that represented them and decided on a name for themselves.

Ultimately, it was the final project that Mr. Gorman said brought the most enthusiasm.

Behind the school’s main playground, the students built a modern-day version of a longhouse. The original homes of the Native American tribes, they were constructed of trees, lashed together with bark and ventilated with a hole in the ceiling.

In the version at Eagle Hill, the students lashed the long tent together with rope, slung a dropcloth over the frame and painted the exterior with their mythological symbols. Inside, wood is lashed together in what might represent the earliest form of bunk beds, with storage beneath.

The students proudly answered questions about their learning unit, showing off the paintings and explaining to guests how the longhouse was constructed. When asked how long they wished to keep it standing, the first answer was “forever.”

Whether snow plays a part in its demise or not is yet to be determined but one thing is for sure: Eagle Hill students clearly understand this unit on American history — from the ground up.

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