I am excited to launch a 10 week-long series of American Girl History Units written by guest writer, Susan Mathis. Each Friday, please join us for an in-depth look at one of the girls and her moment in American history.
In celebration of the birth of our great nation, Susan is offering up a bonus unit featuring Kaya, a collection of stories based on our very first AMERICANS.
As a historian and big fan of American Girl Dolls, I am grateful for this opportunity to share some ideas on how to design a yearlong study of American history based on the dolls and their books. In general, this study would be appropriate for any girls who would be able and inclined to read the books, i.e. upper elementary school.
A Few Tips Before You Begin
- Invest in a timeline and outline map of America. Both of these items can be printed off the internet.
- Check out www.americangirl.com for books, as well as educational materials to supplement your study. These are available in the “Play” section of the site. You can also purchase books, crafts, stickers, etc. from Amazon, most books stores, and Michael’s.
- Plan on spending about 3-4 weeks on each character, depending on how much you are enjoying that particular era.
- To make it through this study in one school year, your daughter should read at least two books per week. If this is not enough, she can also read some of the short stories, too.
- When possible, visit the places you are studying, or similar ones.
Kaya is unique among American Girl dolls because she is Native American. As you study her life, consider that she would still be surprised at the sight of a European person in her part of the world.
- Mark Kaya’s home on the map. Explain that, unlike later girls, we don’t know exactly where Kaya lived. In fact, she probably didn’t have homes in the traditional sense, since the Nez Perce were a nomadic people who moved around to follow hunting opportunities.
- Find 1764 on the Timeline, as well as 1754, the year Kaya was born. Check out the internet to find other events happening in America at about that time. The most significant of these for Kaya would have been more and more European settlers coming to the Northwest.
- Choose a craft to work on while you’re studying Kaya. Consider either a leather craft or beading, both of which would have been popular among the Nez Perce. Remind your daughter that beads would have been very valuable and obtained by trading with European settlers.
- Introduce your daughter to other famous Americas of that era, including the Founding Fathers and their wives, as well as explorers like Lewis and Clark. Locate their homes on the map, and their lives and important contributions on the timeline. Remind your daughter that Kaya would not have heard of these people, except perhaps for Lewis and Clark, who came through the Northwest when Kaya was much older.
- Have your daughter(s) choose a scene or event from one of the books to act out with her siblings.
- Animals were a very important part of Kaya’s life. Have you daughter consider how the life of your pet is different from the animals in Kaya’s tribe.
- Read one or more of the mystery books to supplement your study.
- Help your daughter make either a dish or a meal featuring items the Nez Perce would have enjoyed.
You can read more about Susan Mathis at thecouponcupboard.com. There she shares her adventures in homeschooling and motherhood in suburban Maryland, where she lives with her husband, two youngest children and 15 American Girl dolls.
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