January 26, 2011
Massachusetts Educator Inspires New Curriculum
Teacher Bases Lessons on Crow Canyon NEH Workshop Experience
Last summer, Crow Canyon hosted two National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Landmarks of American History and Culture educator workshops. Social studies teacher Ann Ambiel and her colleagues at Bay Cove Academy in Brookline, Massachusetts, have created an American Indian curriculum based on Ann's experience at one of the workshops. The curriculum has been embraced by teachers throughout the school.
|A paper mache model of Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde National Park was created by students|
at the Bay Cove Academy.
Ann contacted me last fall to share the news about her American Indian curriculum and to invite me to her school. Late in October, I traveled to Massachusetts to meet with Ann, her colleagues, and students at the academy. I found that Ann's use of her NEH experience is impressive. Not only do the academy's students learn about archaeology and Pueblo Indians; they also have an opportunity to learn about contemporary American Indian perspectives.
During Ann's social studies class, I observed students learning about archaeology and American Indian history—they had done a great deal of reading, note taking, and research on the topics. Ann asked Greg, a sophomore, what he learned about American Indians and he said, "I was surprised to learn that there are so many different American Indian tribes and that each culture is so different."
Ann said she and her students have been invited by graduate students from nearby Boston University to visit their archaeology lab and see firsthand what archaeologists do. Another field trip is planned for later in the year to the Harvard Museum of Natural History.
In the art room, teacher Alison Hodge and her students were making a large paper mache model of Mesa Verde National Park's Cliff Palace. This archaeological site was one of the landmarks Ann visited during the NEH program. Students were also weaving on a traditional loom, making baskets, and creating southwestern-style pottery.
Teachers at the Academy were also contributing to their students' understanding of contemporary American Indian culture. Literacy Specialist Claire Higgins had assigned the book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Claire had also invited a Harvard graduate student who is a Tolowa tribal member to talk to the students. When asked about the Sherman Alexie book and the speaker, Maggie, a sophomore, said that she was saddened by the conditions at the reservations and about how American Indians are treated. "It's unfair and it's kind of messed up," she said.
Linda Peverada, a clinician at Bay Cove Academy, runs a diversity group. Her students were preparing to celebrate American Indian Heritage Month in November by creating a bulletin board, cooking traditional foods such as squash and bison, and discussing the importance of honoring American Indians past and present. Anthony, a junior and member of the group, said, "I liked making the food. The bison burgers were 'the bomb.' It's great because I get to know about another culture."
The entire curriculum works particularly well at the academy, Ann explained. Bay Cove Academy is a therapeutic day school, and as an alternative school, educators are allowed some flexibility in their schedules and can spend more time teaching about subjects such as archaeology and American Indians, while still meeting state standards.
Ann said the development of the curriculum was truly a group effort that included educators within and outside of the school. She credits her colleagues at the school for giving the curriculum its depth and breadth. "It was not difficult to recruit people to help build the curriculum because people are interested in the topics and know the importance of teaching them," Ann said.