Harvest Dolls!

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – Native American Crafts (History), Natural Resources, Colonial and Pioneer Crafts, Geography

Language Arts – Literature

Science – Ecology (Repurposing and Recycling)

Possible Art Concepts: Native American and Colonial Crafts – Origins, Apple Head Dolls, Corn Husk Dolls

In my last couple of posts, I’ve been talking a bit about apples and harvesting time. I talked about two fine artists who included apples in their paintings. Today, I’m going to talk a little about crafts made from harvested things and their history. I remembered from my teaching days that dried apple head dolls were made in colonial and pioneer days. Little did I know that the apple head dolls originated with the Native Americans. The history is a little fuzzy, but a few sources credit the Seneca Indians with making the first apple head dolls. They in turn taught the American colonists and pioneers to make them. Doll making is a tradition of many tribes around North America. The materials used to make these dolls depends on the natural resources that are available to each tribe. After all, the Native Americans were our first ecologists. With them nothing went to waste. The Senecas lived in the northeast. An excellent resource for Native American dolls past and present can be found in the following post from the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC. I like the colorful map included. It’s always nice to throw in a little geography.


Just as doll making skills were passed down through the generations in the above post, so did the mom in the story, The Apple Doll, by Elisa Kleven. This would also be a good story to go along with an All About Me unit. Find out more about the author and her book here:


Check out this blog post to see ways to incorporate The Apple Doll into a lesson. I’d leave out the tree climbing part. Wouldn’t want any broken arms or legs.

The Apple Doll, “Oh, Sweet Susanna”

Find apple doll instructions here:


It might get a little pricey for each student to make an individual apple head doll. The teacher could demonstrate how to make a doll and make it class doll. Students could earn the privilege to have the doll at their desk for good behavior. However, If you do a field trip to a farm, students could all get an apple instead of a pumpkin. Then all the students could make a doll.

Apples were not the only natural resource used to create Native American dolls. Corn husks were also utilized and the skill of making them was passed onto settlers and pioneers also. I found two websites that show directions for making cornhusk dolls. The first is more traditional and has very nice step by step photos. It also tells the story of why different tribes do not paint faces on their cornhusk dolls. The second lesson is more simplistic and uses less corn husks (Less costly to make and less time consuming). You can find these lessons here:


and here:

Corn Husk Doll

So, if you are teaching a unit on Native Americans, the Thirteen Original Colonies or Pioneers and wish to incorporate the crafts of the time, this post is for you.

See you soon!


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