Learning Opportunity Lost

Writing about how my elementary school teachers used popular music as part of their lessons, reminded me of a lost learning opportunity.

Back in the day, fourth grade was when Native American history was taught. Being in San Diego, the history was everywhere. As an adult I’ve been on several hikes in State and local parks that have the tell-tale signs that the indigenous population of the region had lived in that spot. As part of the history unit, we learned about the mortar and pestle method of grinding grains and acorns, and there are rocks with the holes used for this all over.

Mortar Hole

I was so proud of myself (and my 4th grade teacher’s ability to make things stick) for being able to identify what I was looking at.

I was completely enthralled with that unit. It was a rough year for me – my parents separated the summer before – and having something to be genuinely excited about was what my little heart needed.

I loved the idea of living in harmony with nature and using what food was available. If I could have, I would have watched the film about processing acorns to remove the tannins over and over again. My affinity for this way of life was all the more amazing considering that I hated camping because it was dirty. It didn’t dawn on me that their life was not as sterile as mine comparatively was – and that there was no air conditioning!

The San Diego Mission was 15 miles from my elementary school, much closer to than the zoo, but ironically, we never went to the former. We didn’t do any field trips at all for the unit, or any experiential learning at all for that matter. What a wasted opportunity! We didn’t even have any songs. That teacher wasn’t very touchy-feely, weird for a teacher at that level.

Come to think of it, I always said that my AP US history was the reason I became a history major. Perhaps those seeds were sowed many years before that.

Did anyone have an experiential component to their Native American unit in elementary school? or Was I the only one who didn’t like camping because of the dirt?

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