- Sponsorship -

Banging on Rocks Shapes Global Learners

Teacher Connects Stone Age to ‘Nacirema’

Sixth-grader Sam Williams used firm, deliberate pressure with a deer antler to try to chip flakes off a sedimentary rock, called chert. She was using a skill right out of the Old Stone Age, though she acknowledged it was a good bet that prehistoric tool fashioners didn’t have access to goggles like the pink plastic ones she was wearing.

“This is hard,” said classmate Maggie Rescka. “I thought it was going to be, like, a little bit easier than this.”

Social studies teacher Kris DiVita leads the activity, called flintknapping, every fall as part of lessons about prehistoric cultures.

Flintknapping is the process of creating arrowheads and other primitive tools from stone, DiVita explained to her students. While arrowheads were used for hunting, they also were used in that era to scrape hides and as knives.

“I want them to see what a craft it is, and I think anytime they can do the hands-on is everything,” DaVita said. “My eighth-graders come in and say ‘Oh, you’re flintknapping!’ It sticks with them. If we hadn’t been pounding away on rocks, maybe the lesson wouldn’t have stuck as well.”

Flintknapping in DiVita’s class is paired with an introduction to using a historical atlas. Students will use those all year to determine latitude and longitude, identify city-states, and examine where people traveled and the rise and fall of empires and civilizations.

Ian Mackeigan tries to chip at, not smash, a piece of chert with a rock

Making the Ancient Modern

Next up for DiVita’s students is the New Stone Age, during which people begin to farm and produce food. The school year includes the study of cave paintings, the fall of Rome, world religions, and ancient Greece, China and India.

How does she keep students engaged besides the hands-on activities? By making the ancient relevant, she said.

“I start the year off telling them about these people, this tribe called Nacirema, who have metal in their mouths that hurts, holes in their ears, walk with their feet arched and let the sun burn them on purpose for beauty,” DiVita said. “Then I tell them ‘These are Americans. This is you.’

“When you explain it from a different perspective, even we can sound a bit strange. They realize that all these cultures they think are strange, aren’t. And that what came before all contributed to the world around them today.”


Video: Flintknapping for Beginners

- Sponsorship -
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills and Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.


Fourth-grade hockey fan gets a magical hour on ice: ‘I made the shot!’

Raised as a Red Wings and Grand Rapids Griffins hockey fan, Jackson Solow lights up while skating on an ice rink wearing his favorite hockey jersey...

‘This time it is continued learning’

One school’s switch from in-person to virtual education last week was nearly seamless, especially when compared with the forced school closure in March...

Foundation grants $28,285 in fall funding requests

Virtual phys ed and art experiences, materials to improve classroom focus and books on social issues aimed at middle-schoolers are among the grants approved this fall...

Latest school closings expand on state-ordered high school mandate

More Kent County districts continue to announce temporary school building closures, as schools contend with a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Kent County and Michigan...


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Short stories, tall tales

A collection of short stories by Mark Pullen’s fourth-graders at Lakeside Elementary shows what they have learned in their realistic fiction writing unit...

Bringing ‘positive intent’ to work every day

Heather McKinney-Rewa is the new East Grand Rapids Middle School assistant principal. SNN gets to know her in this edition of Meet the Principal...

Fifth-graders find beauty in science by dissecting marigolds

One teacher used readily available nature just outside school to introduce this year’s science unit, as well as flowers from home to study the parts of plants...
- Sponsorship -


Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...


Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -


Maranda Where You LiveWGVU