Boozhoo (hello) from all of us here at the Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College (KBOCC). Fall is upon us and as the leaves begin to change colors we are making some changes in our early childhood education programs as well. KBOCC has teamed up with our on-site Migiziinsag (Little Eagles) Great Start to Readiness Program to launch our Restorative Teachings Initiative entitled Abinoojiinh Waakaa’igan (A Child’s House).
Abinoojiinh Waakaa’igan is one classroom of 16 children who are four years of age. We have started planning and implementing Ojibwemowin language and culture into the current curriculum. Our core curriculum is High Scope, and is supplemented with lessons from a book titled Lessons from Turtle Island: Native Curriculum in Early Childhood Classrooms by Guy W. Jones and Sally Moomaw (2002).
Some recent activities for children include listening and interacting during story time. Before introducing the book Baby Bear Counts One by Ashley Wolff (2013), Christine Awonohopay (cultural advisor) previewed the book and incorporated Anishinaabe language throughout by adding her own labels on the pages. Labeling the pictures in the book allows the children to better understand the meanings by seeing both the English and the Anishinaabe words that go with the pictures.
The children also enjoyed learning about and participating in a smudging ceremony In the Anishinaabe culture, smudging with sage is a way to purify and cleanse negative energy from a room or person.
Lastly, a variety of labeling and materials incorporate the language and culture throughout the day. We have both English and Anishinaabe translations for labels (we also include this in everyday speech alternating the languages for basic words).
The developmentally appropriate cultural materials we have in our classroom include drums, shakers, art work, and other culturally significant items. Since the current curriculum was introduced, we have noticed an increase in the students’ and teachers’ understanding of the Ojibwemowin language and culture. We have witnessed children’s language growth by observing that they initially did not know any of the Anishinaabe language and now are using it in everyday communication. Daily routines in using the language include a basic Boozhoo (hello), playing with animals such as Makoons (bear cub), counting, and even saying Migwetch (thank you).
Every time I walk into the room the children are excited to share what they are learning. One girl asked, “Teacher, do you want to hear my new song?” and continued to sing the Boozhoo song she just learned.
KBOCC Restorative Teachings Initiative has only just begun to make changes to our community. We are eager see the positive outcomes as we continue to implement the Restorative Initiative as the school year continues into the New Year. We would also like to say Migwetch (thank you) to the American Indian College Fund for giving us the opportunity to introduce this program to our community and we look forward to giving updates of the positive impacts it will make into the future!
Post by Jolene DeCota, KBOCC Early Childhood Education and Anishinaabe Studies Student, Restorative Teachings Initiative Student Intern