FOUNDATIONAL DESIGN ELEMENTS
CULTURALLY RESPONSIVE SCHOOLING
We are committed to ensuring students' cultural identities are seen as assets and are represented in the curriculum we create by:
Native Language Instruction: Our goal is to provide daily instruction in both Zuni and Dine' language, designed with the approval and support of those tribal governments and school systems.
Culturally Responsive Curriculum and Pedagogy: We will implement curriculum and teaching methods that utilize local funds of knowledge, acknowledge traditional ways of learning, and affirm students' identities.
Project-Based Learning: We will implement a teaching methodology that is interdisciplinary (combines multiple subjects at once), ensures students are active learners rather than sitting passively, and focuses on using local history, literature, ecologies, etc.
Community-based Service Learning: In the high school, our students will enjoy experiential learning in their communities by taking part in long-term service projects.
Socio-Cultural Consciousness and Agency: A key aspect of Culturally Responsive Schooling is a deliberate focus on ensuring students develop the ability to think critically and take action around issues of equity, power, and (de)colonization.
Wellness Framework: We believe schools have usually focused narrowly on students' intellectual growth instead of taking responsibility for ensuring holistic health and wellness. We are developing our wellness framework this year, which we will use to hold ourselves accountable to attending to students' social, emotional, relational, physical, intellectual, and spiritual wellness holistically. Students will use our wellness framework to set personal goals and reflect. The framework will also be the basis of a wellness course.
Positive Youth Development: Our school has been designed through the framework of Positive Youth Development, which is an intentional, pro-social approach that engages youth within their communities, schools, organizations, peer groups, and families in a manner that is productive and constructive; recognizes, utilizes, and enhances youths' strengths; and promotes positive outcomes for young people by providing opportunities, fostering positive relationships, and furnishing the support needed to build on their leadership strengths. PYD differs from other approaches to youth in that it rejects an emphasis on trying to correct what is "wrong" with children's behavior or development. Programs and practitioners seek to empathize with, educate, and engage children in productive activities.
Advisory: One program design with wellness in mind is our Advisory structure--a small, family-like group designed to build close relationships between peers and with teachers, and to make sure students have a safe and comfortable home base while at school.
Restorative Justice: Rather than rely on punitive punishments, we will implement restorative practices in our school. This is in response to many stories we have heard from families of youth being suspended and expelled from school, and is also in keeping with traditional notions of justice and community health.
Outdoor Experiential Education: We are working out the details of a relationship with the National Indian Youth Leadership Project to ensure all of our students have access to outdoor education, a model of learning designed to challenge students in a fun and supportive setting.
CULTURALLY RESPONSIVE SCHOOLING
Culturally Responsive Schooling is a methodology designed to facilitate effective learning by building meaningful bridges between home and school experiences as well as between academic abstractions and lived sociocultural realities. The goal is to help students thrive academically while also growing into their own confident identity.
SAMPLE SCHOOL DAY
This schedule is not final and is intended as an example of what a day could look like.
Advisory is a structure that is designed to build deep relationships and ensure students' individual needs are met. Students will start each morning in advisory with a small group of peers and one adult. During this time students will greet each other, share about themselves, practice goal-setting and reflection, and prepare for student-led conferences each trimester, among other activities.
Project-Based Learning will be the method through which our middle school delivers its core curriculum. Each trimester, students will work in groups to dig deep into a topic or theme that connects their academic skills to our local context and they will produce large projects that will be shared publically with families and communities. This could involve, for example, studying the history and science of mining and producing a magazine launch; reading Native literature, doing an oral story-telling project, and writing short stories about experiences in our home communities; or studying physics by designing efficient water pumps. The possibilities are endless! If you are interested in helping brainstorm and design our projects, please consider joining our curriculum commitee!
Skills Labs are designed as a means to deliver "direct" instruction in foundational academic skills in math, reading, and writing--skills that will be applied and deepened in Project-Based Learning settings. Students will be in small groups with peers of similiar abilities during Skills Labs and will receive short, fast, effective lessons to develop the specific skills that they need in order to flourish as students.
LANGUAGES AND ELECTIVES
We aspire for students to be able to access a rich array of daily elective options, including language coursework. Students will be able to choose from a "menu" of electives each trimester. Electives offer an opportunity for innovation, creativity, and cultural responsiveness in our curriculum. Educators can explore topics they are passionate about, while students can request and design courses, as well. Electives could range from arts courses in pottery or weaving or drama, to language and cultural studies, to different health and wellnes pursuits, culinary arts, farming, etc. They could also be a very specific deep study of a particular topic, like the 2014 Navajo Nation election, for example. As our school and staff grows, the options will also expand and evolve.
Through a partnership with the National Indian Youth Leadership Project, we aspire to offer opportunities for students to learn through outdoor, experiential education. NIYLP is an organization with a long and successful history working with Native youth. We are working on the details, whether it means offering their flagship program, Project Venture, as an elective, or taking all of our new students on outdoor adventures before school starts, we are going to find ways to ensure our youth beneift from NIYLP's expertise.