Cultivating Lakota Early Childhood Learning Opportunities


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The American Indian College Fund supports a Lakota language and culture revitalization project,Cultivating Lakota Early Childhood Learning Opportunities. Partnering with Sitting Bull College the project seeks to develop a scope and sequence of a pre-K Lakota immersion language curriculum, improve family engagement strategies, create an early learning language immersion assessment system, and strengthen the knowledge and skill of Lakota immersion language teachers.  Focusing on early learning contexts, this project is envisioned to create long-term, sustainable plan for Lakota language and culture revitalization.

Project Description:

Cultivating Lakota Early Childhood Learning Opportunities is guided by three main objectives:

  1. Development of Lakota language immersion curriculum, enriched by family engagement
  2. Development of Lakota language immersion assessment  aligned with curricular lessons
  3. Provide opportunities for teachers to engage in targeted professional development in language learning and development

This funded project will have intentional benefits and sustained impact on the Lakhól’iyapi Wahóhpi families, children and teachers at Sitting Bull College and beyond.

Tribal College Grantees:

Sitting Bull College

The project officially launched at Sitting Bull College in December 2015. Situated within Fort Yates, ND, Sitting Bull College is using this grant to formalized the Lakota language nest instruction; in particular, the program enhancements are focused on contributing to the standardization of the writing and spelling system. The program views itself as a forerunner in the field of Lakota early childhood education; for example, they state, “We are playing an integral role in establishing writing and spelling norms that we hope to share with other Lakota schools” (Sitting Bull College Interim Report, 2016, p. 3). The project benefits from a number of partnerships, including work with the Lakota Language Consortium (LLC) and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Education and Culture Institute. Together with these partners, the program at Sitting Bull College is gathering “more ideas on how to better implement our curriculum and receive support in making Lakota–specific activities and pintables” (Sitting Bull College Interim Report, 2016, p. 4).

Family engagement is a critical part of the work at the Lakota language nest. The approach to family engagement is multi-level, engaging families in learning language and participating in developing policies that shape the classroom and operation of the language nest classroom.

The language courses have reached up to 26 parents and parents have engaged in 72 to 81 service hours over six language learning sessions. The courses are offered at three levels of language learning: beginner, elementary and intermediate. In addition to language learning courses, parents serve on the Program Policy Review Team. Sitting Bull College reports a total of 228 service hours contributed by parents across the different levels of engagement. The impact of this project support curriculum and assessment development and support teachers by offering targeted professional development and training. Together with families and early childhood teachers, Sitting Bull College is engaging successful community-based efforts to revitalize Lakota language and culture.

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Cultivating Lakota