Longhouse Project Teaches More Than History
A Native American longhouse is on display at Schenevus Central School, as fourth graders from both classrooms have been working to faithfully reconstruct the traditional dwelling of the Iroquois Indians of New York state.

During a recent work session, with the framework of the longhouse in place, students rubbed crayons on paper to simulate birch bark, and glued small stones to pieces of paper to resemble a fire pit. Students have also created replicas of artifacts such as canoes, bows, and weapons.

The longhouse is part of the fourth-grade social studies curriculum, which focuses on the history and culture of New York state. Fourth graders now have a chance to display their handiwork for other students, and will each get to bring home the portion of the longhouse they created when the display comes down.

Along with helping students understand how the Iroquois lived, the hands-on project has other benefits, occupational therapist Penny Cypress explained.

“To them, it’s a social studies lesson; for me, it’s fine motor skills,” Cypress said.

Occupational therapy at Schenevus is an inclusive practice, through which Cypress visits students in their own classrooms, and works with their teachers to develop projects that will target her students while also benefiting the larger group.

“I team with teachers to do things that will develop the skills we’re working on,” Cypress explained.

The longhouse project, which began in December, is a chance for hands-on learning, which Cypress said has advantages for every student.

“It’s good for kids to have something to do with their hands,” Cypress said, “so it’s not just pencil and paper all the time. They need that. It’s good for them to build something with their own hands.

See more photos of the longhouse project on the district's Facebook page.
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