Bdote Charter School to Open in 2014
Monday, November 04 2013
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 and country.

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 welcomed.”

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.

The school 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 immersion curriculum.

Parents interested in enrolling their children in the school may call Roxanne Gould at 612 -279-6380.

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