CDKC Building Strawbale Early Childhood Center

Nov 15th, 2005 | By | Category: 17-2: Sustainability, Tribal College News

Chief Dull Knife College (CDKC, Lame Deer, MT) is constructing an Early Childhood Learning Center that will serve the community in many ways beyond its primary purpose. The facility is the most recent to be constructed with the college’s partners in the American Indian Housing Initiative — Penn State and the University of Washington.

The American Indian Housing Initiative (AIHI) is a long-term effort, dedicated to restoring a culture of self-sufficiency on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation through the use of regionally appropriate green building technologies and sustainable development strategies. AIHI is both a learning exchange between the tribal community and academic community and a capacity-building initiative.

In 2002 students and faculty from the two universities first joined with tribal community members when they constructed a strawbale literacy center on the CDKC campus. Funding for this project was obtained through a USDA tribal college grant, with additional resources provided by AIHI partners.

Local Northern Cheyenne artists provided artwork for the building, including tile mosaics and trim paintings. The vaulted ceilings, round interior walls, and open-air classrooms of the building now provide a learning environment quadruple the size of the previous literacy center.

In addition, an itinerant group of college students joined with a local Native artist and youth from the Boys and Girls Club of the Northern Cheyenne Nation to create a public art installation and courtyard for the CDKC campus, connecting the Literacy Center to the main classroom buildings.

This project engaged community youth in all aspects of the design process, from conception to construction.

For the Early Childhood Learning Center, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) approved a grant to the college for $400,000 in September 2003. The new center will provide a healthier, energy-efficient space for children and double the space of the current facility.

Constructed out of strawbales, it utilizes energy-saving features such as day lighting, cellulose insulation, and radiant floor heating. The center should be completed by next summer, according to CDKC Vice President Bill Wertman.

For more information, contact Bill Wertman at Chief Dull Knife College, email bwertman@cdkc.edu or (406) 477-6215.

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