Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
July 29, 2000 - Issue 15

Learning Navajo Style

By Iliana Limón Journal Staff Writer

Ten-year-old Lisa Shorty says the best part of her summer is making pottery and learning new Navajo words with her friends.

Shorty, who will be going into the fifth grade at Painted Sky Elementary School, is one of 150 students participating in the Albuquerque Public Schools' Navajo Language Immersion Camp.

The program is geared toward improving urban Navajo students' language skills and teaching them about their culture.

"They make learning easy and fun here," Shorty said. "I get to spend time with people who know more Navajo words than I do, and they teach me a lot. They don't care if I make mistakes and help me learn the right way to say things."

The program served middle and high school students for three weeks in June and is working with elementary school students for three weeks this month. Some of the students who went through the program in June serve as volunteers in July.

Half the instructors are APS teachers; the others are Navajo volunteers who want to pass on their skills, culture and language.

Fifty instructors and high school and parent volunteers work with students in groups of 10. Among the things students learn are pottery-making, native dances, cooking and oral history.

Clarissa Salt, 14, attends the camp with her brother Carlson Salt, 13.

"We heard about this from some friends, and we'll be back next summer," said Clarissa Salt, who will be a freshman at Highland High School. "We've learned more of the Navajo language, native dances and to make fry bread. It's been cool, interesting and a lot of fun."

Nadine Anderson has volunteered with the summer camp since it began three years ago. She said she signed her children up as soon as she heard about it.

"The kids get a lot out of the program, and I don't know of anything like it even on the reservations," Anderson said.

The program, which costs $30,000, is funded by APS and the Federal Department of Education by a grant to enhance bilingual education.

Program director Jennie DeGroat said many parents have asked her to expand the program, which has grown steadily since the first year it started, but she said that would require more volunteer support and funding.

Anderson said she is pleased with both her children's improved language skills and her own during the summer. She said her family spoke some Navajo and knew some aspects of their culture but not as much as she would have liked.

"Exposure to language is the key to learning. My family are examples of that because we have improved and gained so much from this program," she said.

DeGroat said elementary school students can still join the camp this summer and that it will continue next summer.

For more information, contact DeGroat at 880-3995.

Navajo Culture and Bilingual links

Dine' Webpages



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