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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


January 12, 2002- Issue 53


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Take a Virtual Tour into Ojibwe History

Woodland dwellingGreat ideas often take great partnerships.

That's the lesson the Fond du Lac and Cloquet school districts have learned over the past five years as they've worked together with the Blandin Foundation to develop a local and regional Ojiibwe Culture/History curriculum on a CD-ROM for area schools.

The curriculum targets fourth and fifth grade students and is funded by a $270,000 grant from the Blandin Foundation.

The CD-ROM production is only the beginning of a wider curriculum project, said graphic designer Kevin Roach, who is designing the storyboard, interface and Web site.

"The CD will be like walking on a trail," Roach said. "The students will be able to learn about a wide variety of subjects. It's one good way to present the material."

The CD allows students to learn everything from the migration story to the life of the modern day Ojiibwe people, all in a format that's on a fourth- to fifth-grade level.

But there is a lot of material to present, which is actually one of the biggest difficulties in undertaking such a large project.

"We're trying to tell the story of a people," said CD-ROM project manager Dick Johnson. "We're in the process of evaluating all the information that could be used. Obviously you can't fit it all on one CD, and you have the additional task of making it interesting to young people. It's quite a task."

To help make that message relevant and interesting the group realizes that they'll need to work closely with elementary teachers.

So outside of creating the curriculum, the committee will also provide teacher inservice training and resource kits for instructors.

Mary Hermes, an assistant professor of education at UMD, will lead the effort to connect the CD-ROM to existing school curriculum and align the project with Minnesota graduation standards.

She'll have help on that front from Johnson, who recently retired as curriculum coordinator for the Cloquet Public Schools.

"This is a good fit," Hermes said. "The program works very well with the grad standards, and area school districts have a big need for new curriculum."

Elementary teachers already face an overload of curriculum options, so committee members are careful about how they present the project.

"We want this to be something positive," said Brenda Pollak, service learning coordinator at Fond du Lac. "We want teachers to see that this will interest students and keep their attention. We're not just piling on more work."

Area teachers are always on the lookout for new curriculum, said Cloquet Superintendent Russ Smith. The Cloquet School District has been searching for an Ojiibwe curriculum for many years, and this project would be a perfect fit.

"It's what we're looking for," Smith said. "It's interesting and factual. We're very excited about it."

Targeting fourth- and fifth-grade students for Ojiibwe cultural history is an ambitious plan, but committee members say some of the overall goals go further than that.

"We're trying to break cultural barriers and stereotypes," said Fond du Lac Education Planner Dan Anderson, who is providing historical resources and coordinating team meetings on the project. "A lot of Native and non-Native people have misconceptions about the history of the Ojiibwe people. This helps counter that. It's good for everyone."

"There's no reason why students shouldn't have an understanding of this," said Johnson. "Much of the curriculum out there doesn't focus on local people, and a some of it isn't true. This area needs this project."

Eventually the group hopes to expand the curriculum to other age groups and other districts.

Other committee members are Charlin Diver, who will be responsible for curriculum writing, research and review. Betty Dahl will also assist on research.

"It's such a large project," Johnson said. "It's hard to know when to pull people in. Some people say that we couldn't do it. But we will. We have a lot of talented people working on this."

The curriculum is due to be implemented by February 2003.

Fond du Lac Indian Reservation

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Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


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