Books,  Cottage School,  Curriculum

Teaching “A Tree In The Trail”

One of the great joys of teaching is freshly discovering the subject with the students. Even if you know the material, watching new faces learn new material is thrilling. Our geography class also edifies me since it is mixed with familiar and new content, while we have explored the American landscape and the stories of Holling C. Holling. This spring semester, we studied the landscape and the history of the Southwest as we read, mapped, and explored our way through “Tree in the Trail.” Who doesn’t want to talk about Cowboys and Indians? Their life and times are richly fascinating and full of adventure!

We followed a similar pattern to our previous Great Lakes study (see Paddle-to-the-Sea post) by reading, discussing, and mapping with “Tree in the Trail” by Holling C. Holling and the Beautiful Feet Books’ “Geography through Literature” curriculum. I used two books to plan activities and crafts that showed the kids the culture of Native Americans and early pioneers. “Westward Ho” and “More than Mocassins” both provide easy-to-plan crafts, games, and foods with some background information on the people and times. I’m not a crafty mom, but these books gave me ideas and made real connections to their culture, which I could implement. We have two 6-week quarters, so the first quarter focused on Native American culture and the second quarter on Pioneer life, but the plot of “Tree in the Trail” interweaves more so than other Holling stories, so this division isn’t necessary. For the Native American study, we completed the following activities: played horse trading games, designed shields, and crafted peace pipes and coup sticks. For our pioneer/cowboy study (which was postponed due to Covid-19), I had planned to make field journals, fry johnny cakes, square dance, and make leather bracelets and patchwork pieces. Because of our southwest location, I also planned two trips to a western museum and a Native American museum. These cultures have left their imprint throughout our country, so be sure to look for places to explore near you. 

How do you find ways to enjoy your studies with your students? Sometimes it happens in the moment, but other times we need to look for opportunities. Let’s be intentional about modeling a love for learning with our kids!

“Tree in the Trail”

“Geography Through Literature”

“Westward Ho” book:

“More than Mocassins” book

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