Dressing Up for Education

I can't remember when I started dressing up for the second graders. Somehow I let slip the fact that I had made a full Native American outfit back in the day I was a Boy Scout. My mother talked my father into donating his old leather jacket and she sewed it up for me, along with a loincloth and a pair of leggings. I did a lot of bead work for it and added a couple of squirrel tails and some tassels. It saw its share of campfires when I was in the Order of the Arrow and then it went into hiding in my closet. Until Karen Bohn found out I had it.

So every year Karen and Elizabeth ask me if I'll dress up in it and talk to the second graders, who study about several Native American tribes, plant the three sisters, and study animal tracks. I'm hardly an expert on things indigenous, and my costume is eclectic and horribly anachronistic to anyone who knows anything about this. But I still have fun and the kids seem always to get a kick out of seeing me in it.

Today I was especially impressed with their questions and the things they learned when they visited the museum in Raleigh. We had interesting discussions about how we know what we know about these peoples. "Because we read it in a book," said one student. Which brought forth another question: "How do we know that is true?" Questions begetting questions. This is good education, and it led someone else to remember what they had seen at the museum: human remains from an excavation and a dugout canoe.

I always feel a bit silly when I do this. I'll never forget the year Steve Larson stole my Un-native American clothes from the hall bathroom while I was doing this. I had to walk back to my office in all my native splendor, right down carpool lane about 2:15. I'm still deeply scarred from that experience, but I've gotten over it and gotten back on the horse.

I don't know how long I'll be able to keep this up. I'm getting bigger and my costume is getting more and more brittle. Not a good combination. But for another year, here I am.


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