The BIG Lesson
Every year, Muskegon Christian School third grade students are able to use the Lakeshore Museum Center as their classroom for an entire week. Last week, Miss Hall’s third grade class experienced The BIG Lesson, spending their week learning about the Native Americans that first settled in Michigan and the fur traders who came later. Students were able to learn about what life was like for the Native Americans before and after the Europeans came. They practiced grinding corn, made clay pots, and learned other Native American traditional skills like using hot rocks to boil water. Then they became voyageurs, ‘paddling a canoe’ and experiencing what it was like to be a part of the fur trade. They were able to see the different furs that the traders were trapping and trading (like mink and beaver pelts) that would end up in the closets of fashionable Europeans halfway around the world.
They ended the week with a wax museum for parents. Students were transformed into either a Native American before European contact, a Native American after European contact, a French Fur Trader or a British Fur Trader. They shared their point of view with parents who ‘pressed their button’. After the official program, students were able to explore the museum exhibits with their parents and share some of the knowledge they had gained over the week as well.
A Partnership That is Loved and Lasting
“The BIG Lesson is a wonderful yearly tradition and great resource for our school. I am so thankful for this opportunity to engage with our curriculum in partnership with The Lakeshore Museum. I’m also thankful that Jane joins our class every year to help out,” 3rd grade teacher Erika Hall shares. That ‘Jane’ is Jane Thomasma, a retired MCS teacher who taught here for decades – and was Erika’s 2nd grade teacher as well! Jane was actually the one who introduced our school to The BIG Lesson experience at the museum 11 years ago. Jane still volunteers at this event every year and is so valuable as a resource and helper.
What did the students take away from this experience? “I learned how to make fire with two sticks -it’s really hard!” said one student. “My favorite part was making the clay pots. The Native Americans used them to hold their food” explained another. They all came away with a better understanding of life in early America.