|Written by Laura Waterman Wittstock,
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The first new charter school to feature
Dakota and Ojibwe language immersion will open will open in Fall
2014. Named Bdote Learning Center, with the prominent word “Bdote”
that signifies the birth or origin place of the Dakota people where
the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers meet.
The new K-8 charter school was made
possible by the Minnesota Department of Education’s approval and
support of the charter school authorizer Innovative Quality Schools.
The school’s board is on the fast track to make preparations for
the first students in grades K-3. Although a site has not been
selected, a search is underway in the Minneapolis area. In the
interim, Bdote’s offices will be located at the Division of Indian
Work in South Minneapolis. Grades K-3 will begin in 2014, to be
followed with one grade per year to eighth grade in 2019.
A committee of the Board hired Roxanne
Gould Ed.D, as the start-up coordinator. She is an educator and
Indigenous Educational Design Consultant. Her tribal background is
Odawa and Ojibwe, of the Grand Traverse and Little Traverse bands of
Michigan. Gould said she is delighted with the Minnesota State
Department of Education’s decision to approve IQS on behalf of
Bdote Learning Center, an essential step in making the school a
reality. “We have worked long and hard to bring this school to
fruition. It will offer all Minneapolis families with children in
grades K -3 the opportunity to learn language and cultural fluency,
the roots of the indigenous peoples of Minnesota.”
“The mission of the Bdote Learning
Center is to develop culturally aware, successful, high-performing
students by providing them with an academically rigorous education
that is place-based and rooted in the languages and cultures of
indigenous peoples,” said Gould.
The Bdote name refers to the area where
the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers cross: believed to be the origin
place of the Dakota People. The location of the school in South
Minneapolis will place the students close to one of the rivers, where
they will learn about the features of their place through
environmental activities such as stream monitoring, restoration, and
gardening while incorporating science and math.
The vision of the Bdote Learning Center
is at the heart of the curriculum. Officials say that all students
will develop a love of lifelong learning, language and cultural
fluency, gain skills and education to determine their own future and
develop a genuine commitment to contribute back to family, community
Chair of the Bdote board Elaine Salinas
said it is important to remember Bdote’s core, “We will use
place-based curriculum, but this will be combined with an Ojibwe and
Dakota language immersion experience. Bdote will be especially
attractive to Indigenous families, but all children will be
The school will use innovative teaching
methods that draw on history, culture and languages, knowledge,
values, needs and contributions of indigenous peoples. Students will
be immersed in rigorous, active, interdisciplinary projects involving
outside of the traditional school walls.
An example of a kindergarten science
lesson includes the use of an in-class sand box to create confluence
of Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers; learning Dakota words to
describe the rivers; listening to stories about the rivers; and going
back to the sandbox and re-create the rivers again. Additionally,
students would take a field trip to the rivers, draw rivers on
construction paper, cut out the river shapes and either the shapes of
the things in nature or that were man made as seen on the field trip,
and pasting them on another piece of construction paper background.
Students will learn Dakota phrases as
they proceed through the lesson, display art for the school to see
and take art home to parents. According to school officials, these
activities will address the benchmarks in the Practice of Science and
Practice of Engineering in Minnesota Science Standard Strand the
Nature of Science and Engineering.
Third grader students draw upon similar
methods for their science class, using maps of Minnesota and trace
the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers from their origins to the place
where they meet. They will discuss why rivers “wander” and why
they travel in certain directions and one about the depth of the
Mississippi River and the Minnesota River. Students draw their own
maps of the rivers. Students will speak Dakota when discussing the
rivers and how they change. Through these activities, students will
meet benchmarks in the Earth and Space Strand and the Earth Structure
and Processes and Interdependence within the Earth System Substrands.
Ojibwe language-immersed lessons in
science may also include observing the Sugar Bush in the Spring and
making preparations for a garden.
received a boost from the Administration of Native Americans with a
three-year grant of over $700,000. Over the past year, the Walton
Family Foundation gave funding for start-up costs and the Minnesota
Indian Affairs Council, Dakota and Ojibwe Language Revitalization
Grants gave financial resources for the development of Bdote language
Parents interested in enrolling their
children in the school may call Roxanne Gould at 612 -279-6380.