Tepee becomes reality thanks to BEF grant’s help
One of the Baldwin Education Foundation project grants became a reality for a class of fifth graders Monday.
Donna Reed's Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center fifth grade students took their Native American studies one step further than the classroom. Reed used the grant money to purchase a tepee that the students helped put up Monday morning.
"It's just a thing where Native Americans are in our curriculum and we live in the plains," Reed said. "That's not all of the shelter they would have had. I wanted to have different people come in and talk about Native American life."
Baldwin City resident Tracy Potter came in to help the class construct the tepee. Potter owns his own tepee and was contacted to help the class.
"Donna knew I had one and I mentioned the company where I got mine to her," Potter said. "I loved working with the kids. They were great and they asked a lot of questions."
Although Potter did the main construction, he had the students help and watch him during the process.
"I think they did," Reed said. "The kids got to bring over a pole to Tracy, because he did a lot of it himself. Any chance they could, they got to do some of it and that was really neat."
Reed also said she learned how a tepee was constructed, because she has always wondered how it worked.
"I've read a lot about them, but I never really understood how the poles are set up," Reed said. "I've read that some are three or four pole tepees. When you see the whole thing together, there are 18 to 20 poles. So yesterday, by watching him put it up and us participating, I understand how it works."
After it was constructed, the class of 19 students and Reed fit comfortably in the tepee for reading time. They continued learning and reading about the historic Sioux Chief Sitting Bull.
Later in the day, the class spread out for silent reading time. Many members of the class read alone outside, while other sat in the tepee.
The final activity for the day involved math and a Native American game. Reed said the children were required to do math while using Native American symbols.
She also said the children had fun all day and even passed up physical education to be outside.
"The whole day went very fast," Reed said. "They missed their special time yesterday when they missed P.E. and music, and they don't like to do that. I asked them if they wanted to watch him finish putting up the tepee or go inside. They all wanted to stay outside."
At the end of the day, the fifth graders helped Potter take down the tepee. Reed hopes to bring it back during the spring for another activity.
"My plans were to spend three days and that would have been a little more fun," Reed said. "One day isn't enough for what we did. I think I'd like to have it where the whole school can come out and experience some if it. My kids can be guides for the other students. The tepee will be a part of it, but it will all be Native American related."
Reed's original plan called for the tepee construction to happen last week, but rain caused her to move it to Monday. She had other activities planned, but wants to do those in the spring also.
"We were going to go out and see the buffalo and have buffalo burgers out by Overbrook," Reed said. "That didn't work because of the weather. But I am hoping to do that in the spring, too."
The project was funded through the Baldwin Education Foundation. Reed applied for one of the innovative grants and she was awarded the money for the tepee project.
"I didn't tell them about it before, because I didn't want to get their hopes up if we didn't get it," Reed said. "When the foundation people came in, I told the kids and they were all excited. It was fun to watch them get excited."
Education Foundation Director Kathy Gerstner loved the idea of the tepee.
"This is exactly what we wanted to have happen with our foundation dollars," Gerstner said. "The students will look back on this and remember this project."
Gerstner said that she was glad the foundation could give grants to help projects like this one.
"We're just excited that the foundation dollars are helping so many kids," Gerstner said. "I'm excited about the creative and unique ideas that the teachers are implementing."