After seeing success with the pilot year of our Iyapi Glukinipi Owayawa –– the 100% Lakota Immersion elementary school we have with Red Cloud Indian School –– we are thrilled to kick off another year of Lakota learning. Being able to expand our program is a reassuring sign that Lakota immersion is not only viable, but an incredible investment in our children’s futures.
“They're already getting English in the other parts of their life,” says teacher Lora Catches. “So teaching them something in Lakota, carrying all the richness and meaning the language has, I think it gives them so much more.”
Lora has also spent a great deal of time prepping the curriculums for our elementary students, which make up a kindergarten and first grade class this school year. Combining Lakota culture with the latest approaches to teaching means our young students are getting a well-rounded, culturally appropriate and age appropriate education. Lora also likes to make sure we are never underestimating what our youth are capable of.
“I’ve been told some of the content is too advanced for their age, but I’m so amazed by what the kids know already,” she says. “I really try to think about what is interesting to them and about how I’m going to deliver the lesson so they connect with it. It's almost like acting!”
(Check out the classroom in the video below)
Subject students might not learn about until older grades levels the teachers make more accessible by connecting them to age appropriate concepts. For instance, a unit on the solar system allowed kids to learn not only incredible facts about our universe, but also to think about comparing sizes (Jupiter = big, Mercury = small), learn Lakota star stories, and have fun while pretending to be on a moon landing. It's balancing that combination of learning, culture, and fun that helps teachers see the kind of progress they want in the classroom.
“I’m just so excited for this year,” says Lora, “I know that this is really where I’m going to get the level of fluency I want since it is a safe space to speak and to learn. I’m looking forward to take what I’ve learned, my experiences with the kids, and all the teaching materials, and put them all into action.”