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Don't Clam Up!
Related Subjects:
Biology , Environmental Science , Environmental Studies , Grades K-4 History , Indigenous Studies , Social Studies , Working With Others
Social Issue:
Target Grade Level(s):
Grade / Year 1 , Grade / Year 2 , Grade / Year 3 , Grade / Year 4 , Pre-school / Junior Kindergarden

Ever since we met Michael Furdyk via video conference, I have been thinking about my school district and how to make "global connections." This may sound a little canned, but it's not really. Last year I was involved in our K-12 science curriculum writing team. So, scientific phenomenon and the NGSS are on my mind. The other thing on my mind is how to incorporate, in more meaningful and respectful ways, our Native American peoples and culture. The social studies curriculum is in the mix as well. 

In Southampton, we not only have beautiful ocean beachfront and related shore waters and wildlife, we have the Shinnecock Nation's peoples and reservation as a wonderful part of our local history and identity. Many members of the Shinnecock Nation attend and work within the Southampton School District. I am not a member of the Shinnecock Nation, but my life, personally and professionally, has been profoundly impacted by the Shinnecocks.

It seems to me that all Native Peoples from around the globe embrace nature, creatures and the 'power of the earth.' I know for certain that the Shinnecocks revere nature and its creations. There is more to it than the mini-Pow-Wow we have at school, almost every year, where Shinnecock students dress in their regalia and perform traditional dances for the entire school community along with their parents, relatives and tribal elders. There is even more to it than the huge Pow-Wow on the Shinnecock Reservation every September where tribes from across the continent gather to celebrate and share customs and traditions. We, the non Native Americans (for lack of a better term) are just spectators.

My colleague, a member of the Shinnecock Nation, said it best, '...if I see another teepee in another diorama about the Shinnecocks, I'm going to...' See, the Shinnecocks did not live in teepees. They lived in wigwams, very different structures with different materials/resources due to their geographic location.

As the technology education teacher, I help students create "digital wampum" as part of their studies about the Shinnecocks. Wampum was made from hardshell clams among other shellfish. The big, chowder clams are called quahogs. I remember a demonstration I saw about clams as part of an eel grass replenishment project I worked on at the high school. Clams are major filterers/cleaners of our waters and they need to be preserved!

A connection - Clams and clean water to preserve and protect our beautiful estuaries and wetlands!

The science phenomenon - Time lapse of clam filtration (It's amazing!)

What connections can be made with our local wildlife, specifically clams, and the customs/traditions and practices (positive or negative) within our local community?

How can students be inspired to participate in local efforts to preserve & respect nature with the traditions of our local ancestors in mind?

As an example, the Cornell Cooperative Extension & the Long Island Shellfish Restoration Project:

This idea is still very much in-the-making. More research needs to be done. I need to respectfully share my idea with my colleagues (especially the one I mentioned above) and 

offer my services to make global connections...The concept is win, win for all stakeholders!

We have the technology in-place to video conference. We have local projects happening around us. We have rich cultural resources around us. Where there is a will, there is a way!

I will keep you posted!

My thoughts and meanderings are respectfully submitted and I truly hope that I have not offended anyone with my language or cultural ignorance, etc.


Julia Best


I will follow-up with:

The Shinnecock Nation - Colleagues and Important Others

The Cornell Cooperative Extension

The Long Island Shellfish Restoration Project

Contact Julia Best