Bdote Charter School to Open in 2014


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


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.