For the Wisdom of the Children: Strengthening the Teacher of Color Pipeline is the latest American Indian College Fund early childhood education (ECE) initiative thanks to a two-year, $1.5 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The initiative focuses on STEM-based (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) early childhood education, partnering with Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) to indigenize their STEM ECE curriculum, increase STEM opportunities for Native children, and provide more training and education in STEM ECE to increase the number of teachers of color, particularly Native teachers. This includes parents, TCU students, experienced teachers in early learning centers, and others who serve Native children and families.
TCUs indigenize their ECE STEM programs, allowing both children and teachers to connect more meaningfully to developmentally appropriate learning. Centering indigenous knowledge is paramount to the sustainability of the systems of care needed for the holistic development and well-being of children.
By drawing on local knowledge, TCUs collaborate with their respective communities to create and implement STEM courses, activities, and training programs that are developmentally appropriate for children ages birth to 8. Each project centers around five domains — critical focus areas of work — including inter-generational family engagement, teacher quality, child development, Native language and culture, and pre-K to K-3 transition. For the Wisdom of the Children projects follow five strategic cycles of educational transformation to ensure intentional and sustainable of culturally informed practices. This framework engages Native families, Native communities, and other stakeholders throughout the transformation process through each phase: Visioning; Systems Development; Implementation; Authentic Assessment; and Reflection, Dissemination, and Reflection.
For the Wisdom of the Children ECE STEM initiative empowers Native children, families, teachers, and communities, and enriches the STEM field by enfolding Indigenous knowledge into it. It grants children the wisdom to see the connections in all things. Indigenous teachings are the root that sprouts and branches out to influence other fields of teaching. Children will take this wisdom with them as they grow, learning from those around them and becoming change agents for their communities for generations to come.