School Programs

Be sure to read my monthly articles in The Great Lakes Pilot and The Mackinac Journal.

  • “Stories, Songs, and Dances of the Voyageur”
    45-75 minutes or 75-90 minutes with “Break-Out” Activities

    Synopsis: Stories, Songs, and Dances of the Voyageur begins with the story of an orphan from St. Denis, France. He is recruited to work in the fur trade in Nouvelle France as an indentured servant (called an engagé). After an arduous journey across the Atlantic, the infirm young man is nursed back to health before he departs on his adventure to the land of the “Mitchigaamii”. He is befriended by voyageur Jean-Paul and his Odawa (Ottawa) ally, Maakwaa-oonce (Little Bear). The young voyageur shares interactive stories, songs and dances with his “charges,” played by the school children who accompany him on his journey.
  • “Folklore of the Immigrant”
    45-60 minutes

    Synopsis: Set in a mining camp during the Great Depression, I portray “Miner Sam” as a tribute to my grandfather who lived and worked in a multi-ethnic mining community. Folklore of the Immigrant presents interactive stories, songs and a community dancing from around the world. This characterization is ideal for “March is Reading Month”. “Dig into Reading” with Miner Sam incorporates creative movement into the presentation.
  • Students are participating in the old Welsh legend of “Tommyknockers.” Tommy was an elf that lived inside the mines. We warned miners of impending danger if he liked you. If he didn’t like you, he could make your life miserable. Walt Disney based the Seven Dwarfs on this legend. The students were taken through a series of gross motor movements which ended with the “silent scream.”
I construct my programs for historical characters based on primary and secondary sources, extant texts and historical record. The characterizations are portrayed using the traditions of the culture or an interactive storytelling style. The stories and activities are meant to educate and to entertain. Teachers are sent optional activities before I arrive.

Teachers can receive free activities prior to booking a program. Here are some examples:

  • A coloring activity: Clothing of the young ladies and voyageurs of New France
  • A power point that describes how the French and English treated Native Americans
  • The tale “The Haunted Sugar Cabin,” that is sent without an ending.  Students can write and ending or guess who or what is hiding in the chimney of the cabin.  I will share the ending the day of my visit.
  • A follow-up activity that reviews the events from my program.

Other Options for the 75-90 Minute “Break-Out” Activities

  • Examine life-sized animal tracks, furs and skulls. Students will match a picture of the animal to the track.  Question:  Beavers and river otters have adapted to a semi-aquatic life style.  They are both mammals, but are they of the same “animal family (meaning “are they ‘cousins?’”).  Let’s examine their skulls to find out.
  • Decode a pictograph using a manual which I provide. What is the difference between a pictograph and a petroglyph?  Are there any in Michigan (yes…the Sanilac petroglyphs)
  • Find current day geographic locations on a reproduction of a vintage 1757 map of the Great Lakes, which is a primary source document. Example: How was “Chicago” spelled in 1757?
  • Read and interpret the written directions to a simple French circle dance Joys of Quebec, which will be shared with the class set to music (boys and girls do not have to dance together as partners). This is a real favorite; great for kids that dance, or engage in large muscle activities…AND, I’ll send you a digital recording of the song so students can dance after I’ve gone.
  • Students play “The Stick and Ring Game”, a Native American game used to teach ice fishing or to pass the time. The students record the number of successful “spearings” and present their results to the class in fractional form. This is a great game for eye-hand coordination.
  • Examine actual and reproduced archaeological artifacts and present their “hypotheses” to the class as to what the artifact might be.
  • The children play a Native American game called “Finding Your Way Home”. Student partners take turns memorizing the order of a sequence of stones. This game taught Native children to “memorize the environment,” and is an activity that is meant to improve short-term memory.  Students record their scores.
  • Write an ending to a Native or French story, which I provide after consultation with the teachers. The stories have been published in a variety of magazines for which I am a feature writer. I share the ending with the students.
  • Read a short Native American legend, and based on clues within the story, make a guess as to what creature might be. This activity addresses reading comprehension, prior knowledge and “Seeing the big picture” logic.
  • Match animal pictures to their Native American and French spellings and pronunciations based on descriptions of each animal. Where do we find these names or words today, if at all?
  • Students are given a manual of Native American hand-talking signs and learn to sign a sentence. Marquette used hand-talking as was mentioned in his journal, a primary source document. This activity engages the nonverbal right brain, short-term memory and gross/fine motor movement.
  • Students will use an archaic pump drill which was used to make fire. They will measure the temperature of the wooden tip before and after creating friction for one minute which will be timed by a sand hourglass. Students will use an infrared thermometer supplied by me to record the measurements. How do you think the temperature of a cooking fire was measured before thermometers were invented?  The answer will shock you!
  • In Native American life, or in a frontier setting, when a parent said or whispered “quiet!” or “come here!” the order meant “Now!” We use an exclamation point (!) when something said is important. Why do you think that was?  Write down as many reasons why you think this order had to be followed. You might be surprised at the creative answers students will provide.