Private Native American Artifact Collection Assists Students In Common Core Studies

An area resident’s private collection of Native American artifacts has proven beneficial to students transitioning into a new curriculum.

Mark Baldwin, director of education at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History, paid a visit to Fletcher Elementary School on Thursday to provide students with a more personal experience in their study of the Iroquois Confederacy and Constitution.

Displaying the majority of his artifacts through a slideshow presentation, Baldwin did bring in a few items from his collection, which was originally compiled by his great-grandfather, William Trantum. Baldwin said, though his collection includes approximately 12 pieces that he would consider choice and monetarily valuable, he would rather keep it because of its sentimental and educational value.

“I’m not interested in selling (the pieces) or giving them away because I do use them for educational purposes from time to time,” Baldwin said. “I like to keep them because I’ve had them for most of my life, and I like to share information about them with the students.”

The presentation was intended to compliment fourth-grade students in their eight-week study of a new ELA module within the Common Core Learning Standards regarding Native Americans in New York. The module is designed to ensure that students read, write, listen and speak to learn the history and contributions of Native Americans in New York state.

“We’re learning about the Iroquois Confederacy, and about how they lived and when they lived,” said Kathryn Vanstrom, a fourth-grader.

Fourth-grader Deryck Gullett said his class has read multiple articles about the Great Law of Peace, an oral contract by which the Iroquois Confederacy was bound together.

“The Great Law of Peace is made up of over 100 laws, and we still use it today,” Deryck said.

Although Baldwin has previously utilized his artifacts for educational purposes within Jamestown Public Schools, he said the nature of his presentation has changed to accommodate the new curriculum. While he would traditionally visit classrooms on an individual basis, and allow students the opportunity to handle some of the artifacts, he said the new Common Core curriculum has forced him to adapt his teaching method accordingly.

“This situation is kind of one step removed from that, but there are some basic universal ideas about humanity that you can draw from looking at the history of these objects,” Baldwin said. “I had to put together a little PowerPoint presentation so they’d all be able to see, because there just really isn’t the time available for doing it. The way it got worked in this year is actually in the language arts unit, and the Common Core language arts focus for this unit is the Iroquois Confederacy, and especially their Constitution. So, at least there’s a curricular connection that way in looking at how the Native Americans lived. And it gives them at least some kind of interactive, hands-on experience. It’s better than nothing, anyway.”