When they weren’t using GEAR UP as a money laundry, Stacy Phelps and his American Indian Institute for Innovation focused their educational efforts for American Indian kids on STEM—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. There’s no word yet on whether the Regents’ moving GEAR UP from the School of Mines to the Black Hills State campus signals a shift from STEM to humanities in the GEAR UP summer program focus.
However, an eager reader points me toward a middle school teacher in Rapid City who focuses more on the merits of rich cultural content and what she calls “education with a conscience”:
…JAG – Jobs for Americas Graduates, which is a national program that began in 1979, with a combination of dropout prevention and life/employability skills. Now this program is very unique, as it allows for tailored curriculum to be brought in specific to the needs of the students it serves. As local specialists we can rely on JAG developed curriculum, but also are able to reach out into our own collection of on-hand resources and materials to supplement needs of our students.
In doing so, this year we have utilized sources such as: American Indian Life Skills Development Curriculum, Teresa Laframboise, Turtle Mountain Chippewa (with guidance from Hayes Lewis, Zuni), which was a collective effort of several educators and “community members concerned about saving lives of students” (Laframboise). We also utilize classroom resources from CAIRNS – Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies, which is an Indian-controlled nonprofit research and education center based out of Martin, South Dakota headed by Dr. Craig Howe.
In some lessons, we have turned to contemporary native writers such as Gyasi Ross, Momaday, and Deloria (both Vine and Ella) to support and uplift our Native Identity. Traditional stories handed down from Mesteth, White Hat, Black Bear, Crow Dog, Around Him, White Buffalo, and Yellow Boy (contemporary Lakota Elders) shared in oral narratives in class; referencing virtues and morals, while continually demanding that our students realize the importance of academics and education with a conscience.
[Lindsey Crazy Bull Compton, “Tailored Educational Program Geared to Specific Needs,” Native Sun News, 2016.04.20].
What results does Compton see in her classroom?
Within the use of each of these cultural and researched-based material, as an Educator I have seen our students go from zero enthusiasm, low academic standards and poor self-image toward a place of intrigue, participation, and creative self-inspiration through which they engage in shared leadership, understand and value cultural legacy (Gladwell) while internalizing the complex ancestral knowledge through ideas of virtues and kinship in both contemporary social and academic contexts [Compton, 2016.04.20].
Science is important, but so is humanity.