Nothing was wasted in a Pueblo village, says Utah Museum of Natural History docent Jill Smith. Even corncobs and cornhusks came in handy - to make toys for children.
Smith will help local children make a Native American toy called the Pokean on Saturday, March 9, when the museum hosts "Science and Creativity Day" from 1 to 4 p.m.Other docents will be on hand to help children make animals out of handprints, go on an Ice Age hunt to find a mastodon, learn a native dance, and identify the rocks and minerals in the collections children bring from home.
Children 4 to 8 years old are invited. Cost is $4 (with funds to go to the museum's education department). Call 581-6927 for reservations.
Earlier this week, Smith taught students from Salt Lake's Bennion Elementary School how to make a Pokean. The second-graders made the little hacky sacks in five minutes and played with them all during recess.
First soak the corn husks in water to soften them, Smith instructed. "They still feel like cardboard," commented Ian Briscoe. Next, she told the students to lay two husks on the table to form a cross, fold another husk into fourths ("so that it looks like a little pillow") and place it in the center of the cross.
The students pulled the husks up around the little pillow and secured them with a string-like strip of husk. Then they stuck two feathers in the string.
"You might have to glue the feathers to keep them in place," said Smith. "What did the Indians use for glue?" the children asked.
"Animal hides. Do you know if you boiled one of those rawhide dog bones, you'd get glue?" Smith said.
"Imagine what they do in a dog's stomach," she commented. But the students were too busy for imagining. They were busy tossing the Pokeans and catching them as they twirled back to earth.
"The feathers make them twirl," explained Smith. As they played with their Pokeans, she explained, children of the Pueblo culture were also developing hand-eye coordination they needed for hunting.