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Hammond students learn modern lesson in ancient crafts

While most schools are frantically racing to keep up with the ever-changing technology of cloud computing, Hammond School has taken technology to a whole new level, one that dates back centuries ago: primitive technology.

This is technology in which twitter is something a bird does, web refers to the web of life, moodle is the sound a river cane flute makes and google is simply a large number.

But immersing middle school students in an authentic learning experience that brings to life technology employed by Native Americans and Colonial settlers is anything but backward.

In an attempt to engage students in the core components of the fifth grade, social studies and history curriculum, Hammond developed a program that gives students an experiential opportunity to discover these early and primitive technologies.

"In an era in which we are attempting to focus on 21st century skills, Early Technology Week is a way to expand our classrooms into the natural world," Hammond headmaster Chris Angel said,

Conceived of and developed by former fifth-grade teacher Renee Bickley and Hammond's naturalist-in-residence, Tom Mancke, the program quickly grew from a two-day experience to the most highly anticipated week in the fifth graders'year.

Working with experts from across the country, students spent a week rotating through six project stations presented by visiting primitive technologists. The stations provided activities in early forms of technology, from the burn and scrape method of hollowing bowls and canoes, to making flutes out of river cane, gourd-working, pine needle and kudzu basketweaving, and deer foot tool kits. Perhaps the most popular craft was making a deer foot tool kit. Students learned to form sharp-edged stone knives from flint, which they then used to skin a deer leg. When the project was complete. they held in their hands a pouch, talon candles, rudimentary fishing tackle, and a sewing kit - all from the foot of one deer.

To visit Hammond's campus during Early Technology Week is to step back in time. The smell of fires burning and venison smoking mixes with the excited exclamations of students making new discoveries of things from a bygone era.

Students emerged from the week soot-covered and soiled but aglow with an inner sense of accomplishment and newly acquired knowledge from outside the confines of the traditional classroom.

At least for a week, Hammond was successful in taking a computer joystick out of a student's hand and replacing it with a deer foot.

While Hammond races to keep pace with current technology that has helped make so many advances in the way we live and educate students, for that one week, it provided its students with a unique opportunity to experience firsthand the struggles faced centuries ago.

"I find it interesting that the same skills we're accomplishing with modern technology: gathering and assessing information, collaboration, innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, are the same skills mastered by our forefathers," Angel said. "With our early technology program, we're able to demonstrate to our students that these Twenty-first century skills were actually the same set of skills discovered many years ago."

- Submitted by Cissy Pope, Hammond School

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