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Classroom Activities & Projects


Level: 10 to 12 years


Traditional Plains footwear is often decorated with a myriad colourful patterns and designs. Often those designs reveal the shape of an animal or an object, though they can also be merely geometric. A representation of a thunderbird, for example, is not just for decoration, but carries symbolic significance. Depending on the age of the students and/or material covered in the classroom before, the teacher may have to define 'symbolism'. You can use the tipi as an example: it represents home, and expresses the idea of love for family.

The worksheet called 'Thunderbird' shows various designs and patterns found on many of the shoes/moccasins in the exhibition: thunderbird, arrows, eagle or eagle feathers, buffalo tracks, horses or horse hooves. First, ask the students to match each design with one of the names given. Next, using the web exhibition, have students determine what symbolic significance each of the designs has.