Sunshine constructs birchbark house

Students at Sunshine Elementary School experience what life was like for Native Americans in their own birchbark house.
Feb. 07, 2013 @ 06:14 AM

Students at Sunshine Elementary School are getting to experience what life was like for Native Americans.

Media Coordinator, Robin Smith, decided that she wanted to have her very own birchbark house in the media center modeled after the one in "The Birchbark House," a book by Louise Erdrich.

"The fifth grade classes are reading the book as part of their Common Core Curriculum. I decided that we would make the book come alive," Smith said. "I Googled a picture of a birchbark house and said we should build one."

In the book, a band of Ojibwa live on an island in Lake Superior. It depicts the culture and customs of the tribe.

Volunteers Randy Neyer and Judy Kemler constructed the house.

"I dream it up and Randy does it," Smith said. "He actually passed by someone's house and noticed they had birchbark trees. He stopped and asked if he could have some of the bark and attached it to our house. Then he explained to the kids how Native Americans really built their houses and let them touch it."

The fourth and fifth grade students helped in the construction by painting the house. Smith has been using it in lessons for grades Pre-K through fifth.

"This has been a school-wide thing. Every class has felt the results of this," Neyer said. "We have done a lot of different things with it from quiet reading to working with iPads."

"This is one of the best things we have done because the kids can go inside of it," Smith said. "It is just a whole different atmosphere for them."