It’s been more than a few years since I enjoyed one of my most rewarding years of teaching in El Dorado, Arkansas. I had the chance to teach 2nd grade in a region of the country with very different cultural experiences than the New England I had been born and raised in. The lessons I got to experiences with that class have remained with me since.
I made it back to my beloved New England, Maine specifically, and now find myself sharing some stories of my experiences with the young children in my care as they learn about different cultures, traditions and the similarities that are shared across the USA.
The hit is always my Razorback hat. I’m not sure if this tradition continues, but in the ’70’s & ’80’s these hats were worn and the snouts rubbed for good luck at the University of Arkansas football games. Not a tradition we have in this area. The hat does lead into a culture for many families in our state – hunting. Asking what a razorback is we learn it’s a wild boar or hog that is hunted. “Wild pig” to the kids as they always seem to want to play with the hat, often pretending to be hunters.
Then I get to share my snake stories about making lots of noise before putting the trash out or heading to the car left outside overnight, and never reaching into a pile of wood – you used a stick. The best story however is having to go out before children went out to play at recess with long poles to clear away any snakes that were sunning on the hardtop play area. It’s hard for these kids to understand the need to be careful in any grassy area and to stay out of any area not mowed. We are always running through the fields here, playing barefoot in the grass. We have no poisonous snakes in Maine.
We have fun making as much noise as we can pretending to scare away any snakes in our space. Snakes are such an interest point for children that we have rubber snakes for play and often do snake crafts. A nice free plain template for snake finger puppet can be found at MrPrintables.com.
Another experience I share is the time I went mining for diamonds at the Crater of Diamonds State Park. Now Maine has a lot of beautiful gems actively mined within an hour of us, but not diamonds. We head online to see the park and information about mining. Then we head to the sandbox to practice the steps that I used to mine for diamonds (No luck that day, but another fun experience): gather a bucket of sand (dirt), sift it through screening or sifting pans, checking for small rocks (diamonds).
In Maine we have lots of water around us between the lakes, ponds, rivers, streams and ocean. We also seem to have a lot of hot tubs. I use that knowledge when I explain to the children about Hot Springs, and the National Park there.
Usually the best response comes from my story about going “gigging”. Now that may only be a local slang term, but that’s what I was told the activity was called. Most would call it bullfrog hunting. We went out at night, waders on, hunters with gigs in hand (I just was along for the experience). Now we have frogs in our back woods, almost yearly collecting some tadpoles to watch and hear peepers many summer nights, but eating them….No. For a quick lesson in Bullfrog hunting click here.
I have always found that having personal stories to tell adds to books when shared. These 2 books about Arkansas by Michael Shoulders with illustrationsby Rick Anderson tie into my personal stories through the material presented.
N is for Natural State: An Arkansas Alphabet
Rick Anderson, who lives in the neighboring state of Mississippi, is a wildlife painter and his illustrations in these books show the natural beauty of Arkansas’ vast variety of terrain and landmarks.