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Workshops for Students

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  • Ancient Pictographs
  • Geri’s Personal Story Basket
  • Story Making – How To Tell A Story
  • How To Make A Basket
  • Animal Spirit Symbols
  • Navajo Sand Painting

Recommended for Grades 3-5

These workshops have been developed according to the Standard Based Content of elementary school curriculum guidelines in the state of California. These guidelines can also be adapted and or modified for National Standards for Arts Education used throughout the U.S.

Geri’s Workshops make the following standards based connections:

  • Artistic Perception
  • Creative Expression
  • Historical and Cultural Context

Curriculum Connections can be made to:

  • Visual Arts, Theatre, Music, Dance, Language Arts, and Social Studies

Fees vary and will depend on length and number of workshops and number of students in each workshop session.

Each workshop is custom made and Geri works with each school to design a workshop that works for them.

Please contact her directly at 626-798-4343 or email her at keams@charter.net

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Students work in pairs while reviewing pictographs on a sheet of paper. The 40 symbols have been taken from actual “wintercount” deerskin drawings. The ancient symbols give students an idea of how ancient Native Americans lived before there was a written language. They learn that cultures existed without written languages but had symbols by which they communicated.

Students choose 8-10 symbols and draw them on brown butcher paper (their own “deerskin).

Students draw their symbols using red and black crayons only, as Native Americans, had few colors to draw their symbols. After they draw their symbols they rehearse the “wintercount” story and share it with the class.



See, Touch, Smell, and Experience real Native American traditional art symbols. Geri brings her large art objects consisting of baskets, blankets, and pottery, turquoise and silver jewelry, and sandpaintings.

Students listen and learn about these symbols and how they were and are still used within the cultures today.
Students examine traditional designs on a Navajo woven blanket, a Hopi dance gourd, a Lakota hand drum. They listen to what the design stands for and how native cultures use these patterns in their daily lives both past and present.

Students choose some of the shapes, lines, and forms from the symbols to draw their Animal Spirit Symbol. They use one pattern to create their border and use another pattern for the central symbol. They use art paper and colored markers for this activity. The Animal Spirit Symbol represents their own life and the students share 3 things of which they are thankful for. They write these 3 things on the back of their drawing.



Geri tells the story of her youth using personal, tribal, and clan symbols.

She brings her Navajo basket filled with clan symbols, a picture of her grandmother, a silver and turquoise ring, a bear carved out of a turquoise stone,
and other small items that have significant meaning to her life, family, and culture.

This workshop is a great way to begin a series of multiple workshop sessions as it gives students an overview of the culture first hand. By listening to Geri they hear how Navajos live on their reservation today giving students a real connection to a modern living culture. So often students believe that “Indians” only exist in history books and museums. This first hand experience gives them the added important information that Native Americans have current living cultures.

Students get a unique and rare experience. This is very special!



Learn to weave a personal basket using bamboo weaving material. Students are taught a basic spiral weaving technique. This technique can be used by 3rd graders and higher.

Students can bring in small items such as shells, wood, beads, fabrics, and photographs. These “special symbols” can be woven into their basket. The basket is about 8-10″ in diameter when finished.

Students learn a Navajo basket dance and song to honor the “harvests” of their lives. They write a poem about memorable moments in their lives that have been benchmarks in their lives and these poems are woven into the basket.
By learning to make their own basket and finishing the process through the song and dance they learn about the beginnings and endings of things and to celebrate and to cherish their own lives.



Students listen to a Native American story. They identify and describe the elements of the story with the beginning and middle and end. They choose what their favorite part of the story was.

They draw this favorite part as a scene using crayon and paper. When this task is completed they hang their pictures on the storywall in sequence from beginning to end. The storyboard is reviewed. Volunteer sketchers fill in the missing parts of the story.

When the storyboard is complete they form story groups and choose a scene to act out. The scene is acted out without words, known as a tableau. Each group performs their tableau in front of the class.



Students learn this adapted traditional artform through the use of commercial colored sand. The historical use of sand painting is a medicinal method performed by the Navajo medicine men and women. However, this modern adaption is currently used by Navajo artisans to express their culture. This workshop is modified for the use by young children and is a fun art activity for children. This activity in the art of sandpainting is by no means a copy of the traditional method. Children use colored sand using “safe” Navajo symbol templates that students use to create their sandpainting.

Along with doing the activity they do see some “real” art sandpaintings made by current Navajo artists. The students learn about the history of sandpainting and how it is used within the context of the Navajo culture.

This workshop has a part one and a part two. During part one the students learn about the history and the traditional uses of sandpainting. They are introduced to the tools they will be using for the activity. In part two the students make a sandpainting. At the end they can display their artwork to share with others.