ANA Gives Award to FBC Language School Project

Aug 15th, 2009 | By | Category: 21-1: Celebrating Tribal College Journal's 20th Anniversary, Arts & Language, Tribal College News

The federal Administration for Native Americans (ANA) recognized Fort Belknap College’s “Speaking White Clay Language Immersion Project” last Fall in a ceremony Sept. 22, 2008, in Washington, DC. Selected out of 211 projects, the project at Fort Belknap College (FBC, Harlem, MT) received the ANA Commissioners Award for outstanding success.

White Clay Immersion School Director Lynette Chandler accepted the award on behalf of the college. FBC Dean of Academics Dr. Deborah His Horse Is Thunder and FBC President Carole Falcon-Chandler also attended. “This award goes back to the 13 students of the White Clay Immersion School and their families,” says Lynette Chandler. “It’s a tribute to our ancestors and recognition of our resilience as a people. It was refreshing to see our hard work and our tribe recognized.”

The Speaking White Clay Language Immersion Project was showcased throughout the 3-day meeting as a replicable model for other tribal communities. Chandler was invited to share with other ANA grantees how the project was developed and road blocks the project overcame.

Prior to the immersion school, only about eight fluent White Clay speakers remained. The project’s purpose is to ensure the survival and vitality of the White Clay language by creating an immersion classroom. Project staff created an eight-member advisory board, consisting of elders and language program staff, which provided ongoing oversight and direction. Two immersion classroom teachers were hired and trained, including methodology.

Project staff translated state curriculum into White Clay. Students were assessed informally in White Clay acquisition and formally in the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS), a standardized assessment tool used throughout the nation in elementary schools and Head Start programs. Annual test results for the immersion students have shown they are at or above grade level academically as well as being fluent in White Clay.

Last Fall, the immersion school opened the largest playground in the state on the FBC campus. “We are extremely grateful to the USDA Rural Development for helping us make our dreams come true!” says President Falcon-Chandler. Part of the FBC Master Plan, the playground was funded by $180,000 from USDA Rural Development and by matching funds from various grants.

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