Students Spend Break at Charter School
Nine NMU students spent most of spring break week observing and volunteering in K-8 classrooms at Joseph K. Lumsden Bahweting Public School in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. – one of Northern’s charter schools. The practical experience was a required component of their “Native American inclusion in the classroom” course. Senior Erin Coron said the benefits of the experience were well worth sacrificing some free time.
“I’m really glad I did it because I took so much away from there that I wouldn’t have been able to get any other way,” Coron said. “I was in a special education room and actually got to teach lesson plans with the teacher. It’s a unique learning environment because so much of what they do ties their culture to the curriculum. There’s also a strong sense of community that promotes the perfect opportunity for teachers to learn from students. I want to teach in a tribal school, so this was really valuable for me.”
The NMU group stayed at a culture camp on Sugar Island, located on the St. Mary’s River between the Upper Peninsula and Ontario. Participants are pictured during a snowshoe outing near the camp. While most of its residents are tribal citizens, Sugar Island is not recognized as reservation property. Both the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians, which owns the camp, and the Bay Mills Indian Community have interests on the island. The group took a ferry back and forth to the Soo for their activities at Bahweting. In addition to classroom activities, NMU students participated in cultural events.
“The school hosted a feast and storytelling evening,” said April Lindala (Center for Native American Studies), who team teaches the course with Joe Lubig (Education) and accompanied the students. “Tribal elders, culture bearers and other speakers also came in to give teachings on everything from the medicine wheel to treaty rights to the history of the tribe and Sugar Island. It was nice to have people from the community share their perspectives. Each student also made a leather pouch with beadwork to take home as a memento.”
Lindala said the course had been delivered exclusively by the Center for Native American Studies until this year.
“The course is vital enough to still be offered, so I went to the School of Education in the hope of finding someone to pair with who could bring educational expertise to the table,” Lindala added. “Joe had done something similar with a charter school downstate. His educational expertise complements what I’m able to bring to the class – the Native American experience identity and cultural components. We received a lot of help from the charter schools office here at Northern for the site visit.”
The class did some advance preparation on WebCT before traveling to Bahweting. Since their return, they have been working on assessments and case studies.