Colorado History: Hands On Learning

This year I am teaching the History of Colorado to my third grader. We are learning about the Cheyanne and other Native American tribes that lived in this area and my kids are genuinely intrigued about what life was like in this area hundreds of years ago. For this Colorado history lesson, we dive into hunting and gathering and how the Cheyanne obtained food through hunting and foraging.

Colorado History Read Aloud

First we read “Hunting with Bows and Arrows” which I found on the History of Colorado site as part of a lesson plan, although this is the only element that we used. I try to keep our history lessons really hands on so the kids stay engaged.

“Hunting with Bows and Arrows” by A Cheyenne Old Man
The arrow was favored by most of the old-time Cheyennes for killing buffalo,
especially when there was a big band of hunters together after one herd. Each
man knew his own arrow, so if different ones of them were shot into the same
animal it could be shown afterwards which hunter had the best claim to the
meat. Our bows ordinarily were made of wood, but we made them also from
the horns of bighorn sheep or of elk. The horns were boiled to softness and
then were cut into lengthwise slices. These slices were laid to overlap, were
glued with hoof glue, and were lashed to a heavy piece of wood. When the
united slices became dry, that kind of bow was more powerful than one made
of wood. Each hunter made his own arrows so that the length was exactly the
distance from his arm-pit to the tips of his fingers.
Three or four arrows usually were needed to kill a buffalo. That kind of animal
did not drop suddenly. As it ran the arrows gradually worked into the body and
stirred the blood into flowing inside or from the mouth and nose. Finally, the
buffalo would stager, stumble, and fall dead. A deer or antelope or elk might
be killed with one arrow, but it was considered a great feat if a buffalo were
brought down by only one of them. The point had to go into exactly the right
spot, and both the bow and the man’s arm had to be strong. I knew a Southern
Cheyenne named Scabby Dog who often did powerful shooting. I saw him send
an arrow through the chest of a wild steer and bury its point in a tree just
beyond the animal. He put another arrow through the bony shoulder [sic] blade
and up to its feathers into the lungs of another wild steer.

Source: Thomas B. Marquis, Comp, Cheyenne and Sioux: The Reminiscences of Four Indians and a White Soldier (Monograph #3, ed. By Ronald H. Limbaugh), Stockton, CA: Pacific Center for Western Historical Studies,1973, p. 79.

Next, we made bows and arrows

I was looking for inspiration and found this great example at The Brooding Hen but it ended up breaking, I’m not sure how they got the popsicle stick to bend like that. In the end, I brought out my son’s Inventor’s Set, that was really an awesome buy at Target and he created this masterpiece. We used it to shoot q-tips. They didn’t go very far, but it was still a fun activity. I love incorporating hands on learning into our Colorado history lessons. This project only took 10-15 minutes and minimal materials.

Colorado history lesson, making a bow and arrow

Touring Terry Bison Ranch

For the last part of the Colorado history program, we actually took a trip to Cheyanne, WY and visited Terry Bison Ranch! They had this random Bison ranch that has been there since the 1900’s and we rode this makeshift “train” about 2 miles an hour around the ranch and fed the bison by hand. It was very cool to experience this first hand because they could see how the bison roamed around in herds, the ranch is around 200 acres, and they could see how big they are! We also learned quite a bit on the tour.

colorado history lesson, visiting terry bison ranch

Hands on Colorado History

Some of our other favorite history activities are this great Smithsonian set that incorporates virtual reality, so much for for the kids to play around with and wonderful graphics and information. We also love to visit the History of Colorado museum. The first floor is very hands on. Another great local museum is the History of Transportation museum in Denver which we did a Colorado history lesson on, you can check that out here.


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