Wigwams are semi-permanent domed dwellings that were commonly used by certain tribes of Native Americans in what is now the northeastern part of the U.S.. The construction method of these shelters varied based on tribe, but the dome shape allowed the structure to protect its inhabitants from various elements. A school project on wigwams helps students learn about Native American culture and history.
The most common school project on wigwams is having students construct their own wigwams or wigwam villages. This helps students learn about and interact with the different materials used for wigwam production and how the structures were made. Students can create wigwam or wigwam villages out of sticks or skewers, paper and glue. Students interested in art can also study the traditional decorations on a specific tribe's wigwams, then recreate these designs and patterns on their wigwams. Creating several wigwams and setting them up in a cardboard box or on foamcore can help students learn about Native American society.
There are also many research projects that students can undertake to learn about Native American culture and the use of wigwams. Students can focus on one tribe and study the wigwams that they made, then flush out their papers by reporting on the historical significance of the tribe, any famous tribal members and what type of structures the tribe lives in today. One aspect of wigwams is that they are semi-permanent dwellings. Students can also research and write about the lifestyles of Native American tribes, and why this type of sturdy, but ultimately mobile structure was necessary.
Students can also do interdisciplinary projects on wigwams. Early Native American tribes made wigwams out of the materials available to them; studying these materials helps shed light on what the environment of early America was like. Students may choose one Native American tribe that made wigwams and focus in depth on their choice of wigwam construction materials and where and how the wigwams were built. Students can then compare the climate of the region with the abundance of the construction materials used and evaluate how these specific materials and building types relate to that climate.
The term wigwam is used generically to refer to these structures, but the culture significance and different types of construction methods vary by Native American tribe. For instance, a wickiup, is similar to a wigwam structure, but the term is used exclusively for the dwellings of Southwestern Native Americans. Students comparing construction types of wigwams can combine research and building to understand why each tribe used different materials and construction types to build their wigwams. For instance, comparing the shape, materials used and construction of the wickiup to the wigwam helps students understand the different cultures of Northeastern and Southwestern Native American tribes.