Sacred Little Ones - We Will Make a Path for Our Children College of Menominee Nation, Keshena, Green Bay, WI
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The College of Menominee Nation’s Sacred Little Ones project will develop an early childhood instruction model to enable Menominee children to gain academic skills, motivation, support, and confidence necessary to succeed in elementary education. CMN will research the academic achievement of participating children to validate the program results. The program is being developed within existing infrastructure for program sustainability. The CMN project begun to build on CMN’s long-term robust partnerships and existing infrastructures with the Menominee Nation’ early childhood education institutions, Menominee Indian Head Start, Menominee Tribal School and Keshena Primary School at Menominee Indian School District. These partnerships during the four years of the project will create a sound path for program implementation and sustainability. CMN is uniquely positioned to provide direction to our Menominee Nation on Early Childhood Education practices because of our offering both an Associate’s degree and a Bachelor’s degree with state of Wisconsin Teacher licensure in Early Childhood/Middle Childhood Education.

President Verna Fowler described our project as being on behalf of the educational partnership of Menominee Nation Head Start, Menominee Indian School District - Keshena Primary School (KPS), Menominee Tribal School (MTS) and the College. It was noted these partnerships date back to the founding of the College, and the development of the Early Childhood academic program focused on serving the professional development needs of local Menominee community educators. The College is currently engaged in a collaborative effort with the two Head Start centers on the Menominee Reservation to ensure their teachers and teacher assistants meet the higher education requirements of the Head Start Reauthorization Act. Nearly three dozen teachers serve at these centers, which enroll about 250 children each year. To accomplish this CMN is also actively engaging students from its teacher education programs in enhanced field experiences in KPS and MTS elementary classroom. The enhanced field experiences will incorporate new curricula innovation in language and culture.

CMN plans to research the theory that providing Culturally Based Education (CBE) will increase academic achievement in young children. CMN will research if infusing Menominee Language and Cultural innovative teaching practices in the Head Start classrooms and augmenting Menominee Language and Culture at KPS and MTS provides academic improvement in children’s state and national assessment scores. CMN’s Sacred Little Ones: We Will Make a Path for Our Children project is designed to get educators more comfortable teaching using Menominee Language and Culture across the curriculum, not just as a single subject. Using CBE across the curriculum is especially important for low-income and minority children who often start school with less preparation for learning and find that their learning is not reflected in lesson units. There has been an emphasis to have more Menominee Language and Culture for the Menominee children before they enter elementary school, but most of the Head Start teachers do not feel comfortable teaching more than single Menominee words. The CMN project will begin to address teacher practice , assisting in raising their instructional confidence in teaching Menominee language and culture in early childhood education settings.

CMN’s Sacred Little Ones will be implemented in seven Head Start classrooms (housed within two Head Start Centers), eight Kindergartens, nine First grade and nine Second grade classrooms over the four years of the project. While all teachers will receive the same curriculum materials at each grade level, a cohort of 30 children is planned to be followed throughout the project. Each project year teachers in Pre- through second grade classrooms will be coached on how to offer dynamic lessons to get the children and their parents to focus on using activities and learning based on Menominee Language and Culture. For example, the Head Start teachers will be supplied digital video recorders to capture their own lessons so the lessons can be viewed by Teacher Education pre-service students in CMN courses. The CMN Menominee Language Specialist will also review the lessons to offer coaching. This process called distance coaching has proved in other instances to be highly effective, saves time, money and allows authentic feedback.

The Head Start partnership teachers, CMN Sacred Little Ones faculty and pre-service students will also work with parents to encourage their preschoolers to explore and ask questions about everyday experiences setting the groundwork for parents infusing culture with their child. Studies show that parental support in Early Childhood Education is linked to student success, especially for minority students. Student outcomes related to academic achievement such as thinking, literacy, language and math will be assessed at the beginning of each year, and before and after the project. Main goal of Sacred Little Ones is to translate research into practice in an effort to solve student achievement with Menominee children.

Ultimately, CMN believes this system of coaching the Head Start teachers in CBE could lead to improved student performance. The focus of CMN’s Sacred Little Ones project is on collaborative and participatory efforts with our community partners, which means working together to come up with solutions to advance the teachers at each grade level the capacity to incorporate CBE across the curriculum in their classrooms. Additional focus will be the parents’ capacity to back that up at home and finally our overall object to gather data, analyze and research how a CBE aided Early Childhood children’s capacity to learn.