Earlier this month at The Grammar School , students learned about Navajo code-breaking, dreamcatchers, cradleboards and much more. It’s part of “Indigenous Ways of Knowing,” the school’s global education theme for this school year. Throughout the year, teachers are incorporating the concept into their curriculums, from Wampanoag history to indigenous number systems.
Eve McDermott, the Putney, Vt., school’s 2nd-grade teacher, said the staff picked the theme for this year because of its focus on learning from the natural world. The school emphasizes outdoor education, she said, which made the theme seem like a perfect fit.
The week culminated with “In Beauty May I Walk,” a performance by Brent Chase, one of the visitors from the Navajo Nation, melding Navajo music, storytelling and dance. McDermott said the Navajo hoop dance was especially powerful, moving one 2nd-grader to happy tears. “It was just a feeling that you could really relate to, because the energy and the spirit of the hoop dance is really, really powerful in a room to watch it,” she said.
Teachers will continue to incorporate the theme for the remainder of the year, and the students will put on a fundraiser to buy school supplies for The Little Singer School, a K-8 school on the Navajo reservation in Arizona. The Grammar School also hopes to invite Abenaki and Iroquois representatives to give similar presentations to the students.
“We’re still glowing a week later with the spirit of the whole thing. We just can’t wait to have Abenaki and Iroquois come and just learn about their cultures. It’s so important,” McDermott said. “We have a lot to learn from them.”