Getting a Bead on It

14 Dec 2017
ByMaria Asteinza

As part of their yearlong study of Native American history and culture, Fieldston Lower third graders have begun embellishing with hand-sewn beadwork the tunics they are making in Social Studies Workshop.

"This is a longstanding project at Fieldston Lower," noted Social Studies Workshop (SSW) teacher Shari Fischberg. Students begin by looking at photos of traditional Native American clothing and accessories—such as coats, shoes, belts, and pouches—that has beading. "They next cut and stitch their own tunic made from cotton that has been hand-dyed in a variety of colors to emulate a range of skin tones," she explained.

Before sewing the beads on their individual tunics, students practice on a baby-doll tunic. (Unlike basic sewing skills, such as the backstitch, which students master in SSW in the lower grades, beading is a new technique they learn in the third grade.) The beaded patterns are inspired by Native American pictographs and can be an actual symbol third graders have looked at in class or an original design that is reflective of the student's identity.

"Everything we do in Social Studies Workshop in the third grade at Fieldston Lower is tied to the Native American curriculum and will be worn or used at the Native American cookout at the end of the school year, which is the culminating event for this yearlong study," added Fischberg.