Students Speak in Kauai for Cradleboard

Aug 15th, 1998 | By | Category: 10-1: Teaching Math and Science, Tribal College News

Two high school sophomores traveled to Kauai from the Rocky Boy Reservation in Montana last winter to share their culture with other students. Their trip was part of the Cradleboard Teaching Project, an innovative program for increasing understanding amongst Indian and non-Indian students. Curtis Windy Boy defined 20 cultural terms, from deeply spiritual terms to “snagging”, a term signifying dating. Dustin Whitford told about the benefits that he, his community, and his classmates experienced through the project over the past two years.

The director of the program at Stone Child College, Louise Stump, traveled with the students. “They really communicated. They hated to leave each other.” The students had corresponded over the Internet through e-mail, chat rooms, and online conferencing as they worked with the curriculum developed by Native educators. In Hawaii, the students met their electronic pen pals in person.

“Students learn about different tribes directly from Indian students themselves,” Stump says. In 1997-98, students from four different Native schools were paired with non-Indian classrooms of the same age, with the youngest being third graders and the oldest the Rocky Boy sophomores. The project involves tribal colleges as resource partners because of the teacher training programs at these colleges, Stump says.

The program is the brainstorm of singer, artist, and Ph.D. educator Buffy St. Marie (Cree), who started it with her own foundation, the Nihewan Foundation for American Indian Education. Last year, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation granted $1.5 million as seed money for a two year pilot project. St. Marie intends the project to nurture the self-esteem of all children, both Indian and non-Indian. The curriculum is being developed to meet national standards, but the focus is upon fun, too. St. Marie created the program because of her own experiences as a classroom teacher who found that conventional school Indian units were all based upon the concept of “dead Indians” instead of the laughing, living people she knew. For more information, see the website at www.cradleboard.org.

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