by Kodi Phelps, American Indian College Fund Program Initiatives Program Officer

My name is Kodi Phelps and I am the newest addition to the Program Initiatives team at the American Indian College Fund. I am very excited to be coming on board to administer the College Fund’s newest early childhood education initiative, For the Wisdom of the Children: Strengthening the Teacher of Color Pipeline.

I am entering this work with a background in higher education and years of experience creating, implementing, and evaluating programs that focus on diversity, inclusion, and social justice.

I enjoy building strong collaborative relationships and have had the honor to work with a variety of individuals and organizations from children, families, and community organizations to international college students, identity-based student centers, and a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math)-based sorority.

For the Wisdom of the Children: Strengthening the Teacher of Color Pipeline is a $1.5 million, two-year grant through the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The program builds on prior early childhood programming from 2011-2018 to strengthen and expand the teacher of color pipeline, particularly for Native teachers; develop more STEM teachers in early childhood education by training current teachers and pre-service education for prospective teachers; and to create STEM opportunities for Native children who are severely underrepresented in the STEM fields, starting with our earliest learners. Childrens learning panels with Native words and letters.

The College Fund is pleased to announce the For the Wisdom of the Children grantees and their ground-breaking projects:

Fond Du Lac Tribal Community College (FDLTCC) – Cloquet, Minnesota
Minogi’aawaso Maajigii (Raise Children in a Good Way as They Grow) will develop a culturally responsive, Emergent Bilingual Early Childhood Education program incorporating Anishinaabe cultural standards within the curriculum. Courses will utilize resources such as natural outdoor materials for doll-making and virtual reality headsets installed with Anishinaabe language programs.

Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College (KBOCC) – Baraga, Michigan
Gimaadaadisimin (We All Start a Journey) will create and implement an Anishinaabe Early Childhood Conference for early childhood educators and future teachers, focusing on incorporating STEM and indigenous knowledges together into a philosophy of teaching. Ojibwa language and cultural knowledges will also be infused into Family Science, Math, & Engineering Nights as well as into the development of a culture-based mentor/coach system.

Northwest Indian College (NWIC) – Bellingham, Washington
Engaging Native Children in STEM: What Our X’epy (Cedar People) and Scha’nexw (Salmon People) Can Teach Us about the World and Cosmology centers Lummi culture and language by partnering with the Lummi Nation Schelangen Division to integrate traditional names of local foods, plants, animals, and medicines into course curricula for teacher education programs across seven locations. Partnerships with the Salish Sea Research Center will also be utilized to develop inquiry-driven learning activities for children in their early learning center.

Salish Kootenai College (SKC) – Pablo, Montana
Our People’s Timeline: Community STEM Education, Season by Season implements a three-part series guided by the seasonal rounds of the Se̓liš, Ql̓ispé, and Ksanka people, incorporating topics within the ecological, physical, biological, and chemical sciences. These teachings will also be integrated into bi-monthly educational family events in partnership with the SKC Division of Education. A basket with pumpkin and other fall foliage.

Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI) – Albuquerque, New Mexico
Strengthening Our Collective Capacity: A Community-Based Initiative Supporting Early Childhood STEM Opportunities & Teacher Development seeks to develop culturally-relevant STEM ECE training for local teachers and students in their teacher education program by partnering with the Bureau of Indian Education and engaging in community-based dialogue to gather feedback. STEM-focused family nights will also be created, focused on teaching parents’ strategies to incorporate indigenous STEM activities at home.

Through each of our partner tribal college and university (TCU) efforts, Native teachers will be better equipped to serve Native children with culturally centered, place-based, and sustainable early childhood education programs and practices. Children and teachers alike will be able to see themselves and their cultures reflected within the STEM fields. They will bring their cultural knowledge with them as they make contributions to the field and society at large. By working together, we can indigenize STEM practices and ensure the success of our Native teachers and sacred little ones. Native Rattle and squash in a basket.

To follow our work, become a follower on our official ECE Initiatives Twitter feed: @Wakanyeja_ECE #WisdomoftheChildren #NativeECESTEM #NativeECE

Also, download or share our special Native ECE report, Tribal College and University Early Childhood Education Initiatives: Strengthening Systems of Care and Learning with Native Communities from Birth to Career