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Students Proud to Present Their Native American Dioramas

Jean Hiller, a fifth-grade science and social studies teacher at Fortis Academy, recently had her students present their Native American diorama projects to students from other classes. Hiller’s students work all year to create displays and art for their American History Museum.
The fifth-grade social studies American History curriculum begins with Native Americans, then moves to the building of the colonies, the American Revolution, and leads up to the writing of the Constitution of the United States.
 Native American dioramas
These students are standing behind the dioramas they created for their Native American projects at Fortis Academy.

Hiller’s first project had the students learning about Native Americans by region and they had to choose which of the nine regions they wanted to focus on. The assignment was to create a three-dimensional diorama based on the region they chose.
The scholars studied the type of housing, clothing, and food the Native Americans used. They researched that region’s Native American traditions and customs and learned how life was different for the residents because of where they lived.
“Some students asked me if they could present their Native American projects now instead of waiting until the end of the year,” Hiller said. “I thought it would be a great way to practice their presentation skills, so we invited other classes to do a gallery walk-through.”
Scholars were grouped by the region they represented. Visitors listened to a short presentation by each group and could check out each diorama’s details. The visitors could ask questions to get more details, as well.
“I had kids who told me how nervous they were at first, but they were so excited to do it,” Hiller said. “They were proud of their projects and excited to be able to present their information. Some had their brothers or sisters come through and they really liked that. They liked answering questions, too.”
 student made dioramas
Younger students enjoy seeing the work of Mrs. Hiller’s social studies class.

Hiller’s three classes, totaling 65 students, could team up to do research together, but they each had to create their own diorama. Hiller asked that each student complete five index cards where she started the student with a sentence stem in an effort to direct the information.
“We spent a fair amount of time learning about the Eastern Woodland Native Americans which is the type of Native Americans that lived in the 13 colonies as well as in Michigan,” Hiller said. “We did a lot of comparing together as a class and then they researched more detail on their own or with a partner.”
Creating the dioramas was the first step for the American History Museum Hiller’s classes showcase in the spring.
“The projects we create for the colonies is a collaborative mural for the 13 colonies” Hiller said. “Each of my three classes takes a region – New England, middle, and southern colonies. They do some creative pictures that highlight aspects of each region on big bulletin board paper. Then we display the three murals at the museum.”
 students presenting their dioramas
Fifth-grade students are presenting information about their diorama to the younger students.

For the American Revolution section, students do a biography about someone involved in the revolution and create a report. Besides the report, Hiller has the students create a representation of that person. She calls them “Biography Bottles” because soda bottles are shaped like people and the students can dress them appropriately.
The scholars are assigned to a living history assignment, as well. Some students perform parts of the Constitution of the United States for the visitors who come to the museum.
Nice job bringing history to life for your students, Mrs. Hiller!

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Fortis Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Ypsilanti, Michigan, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes 99 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit

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