Thursday, February 21, 2013

Spencer’s potlatch

 When I found out Spencer was going to have Jeff Schot as his fourth grade teacher last September I was over the moon.  We had experienced the wonderfulness of Mr. Schot years ago when Emma had him in fourth grade, so I knew we were in for a treat once again.  Mr. Schot is the most out-of-the-box teacher I've encountered.  I find it hard to describe is teaching style, because it is quite unorthodox in so many ways, but one this I do know is that he has the most incredible way of connecting with his students.  And, as predicted, Spencer has come to adore him during this school year.

 One of Mr. Schots "things" is to have class parties that are not the norm.  For example, the holiday party the class had right before Christmas break was a service project wherein the students gathered toiletries, games and non-perishable goodies to send in care packages to the U.S. soldiers serving in Afghanistan.  During the party the kids wrote letters to the soldiers, packaged up the care packages, drank hot cocoa and ate donuts.  It was perfect.  I loved the thought that went into the party as well as the different flavor that it was- not your run-of-the-mill holiday party.

This year, on Valentines Day, the class held a potlatch as a final celebration of their Native American unit they had been involved in for the past couple of months.  A potlatch is a gift-giving festival practiced by Native Americans from the Northwest parts of the U.S.  In the festival there can be dancing, singing, gift-giving and feasting.

Prior to the potlatch in Spencer's class the students made these village scenes using Popsicle sticks, pencils, yarn, paper and paints.


Each participant was asked to make a gift to give prior to the potlatch.  It needed to be handmade from things found in nature.  Spencer and his buddy both made God's eyes.


The gifts ranged from dream catchers to painted rocks to quilt squares to musical instruments.  I loved this shaker made by a girl in Spencer's clan.


Each student was asked to tell the class about their gift, prior to the exchange.


Spencer received a bowl made from a melted record.


This is a picture of the kids in Spencer's clan.  Each student had chosen a new Native American name for the unit and the teacher called them that name for the entire week leading up to the potlatch.  I was so impressed by that!


The kids feasted on fry bread, veggies and smoked salmon.  Spencer loved the salmon, no surprise.


Here is the fantastic Mr. Schot with my boy.  We are so lucky and blessed to have him in our lives!  Oh, and I also forgot to mention Mr. Schot brought boxes of Native American costumes for the kids to wear during the festivities.  I was amazed that he had so much.


Here is a closer look at the inside of the village huts the kids made.  The guys with the brown yarn head band is supposed to be Spencer.


The kids also wrote out a character biography for themselves.  The class had been divided into clans and each clans member had a particular role in the clan.  It was cool to read what their duties and talents were.  I also loved reading about their very dangerous past experiences- most involved being chased by wild animals and surviving close calls with life-threatening accidents.


Overall, I have to say I loved everything about this class party.  What a great educational experience, and in my opinion it really out ranked any other sugar-loaded Valentines party I'd ever been to before.

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