21 August 2017

Summer School at Takoda Prep

Summer school has wrapped up at the high school, and another year of valuable additional learning time is in the books. Over the course of three weeks, 11 students from various grades earned additional credit in science, social studies, health, and physical education. The guiding questions behind this project based learning experience was inspired and driven by the forthcoming renewal plan for Takoda Prep. This renewal plan is intended to “chart a course for Takoda Prep of AIOIC as it transitions from its current mode of operation into a program more deeply contextualized within Indigenous values and practices.” To implement this renewal plan, Takoda Prep will utilize the Seven Learnings for an Indigenized School (aka “The 7 L’s”) which include:

  1. Learning Out-of-Doors
  2. Learning in Community
  3. Learning Across Generations
  4. Learning in Redefined Spaces
  5. Learning Leadership and Advocacy
  6. Language Revitalization
  7. Learning Indigenous Cultural Practices

During the 2017 summer school session, staff at Takoda Prep began to work towards the 7 L’s. To read more about this renewal plan, please read our recent press release, AIOIC’s Takoda Prep Nationally Recognized for Closing Achievement Gap.

The focus of this year’s summer school experience was native and indigenous plants. Some questions that drove this focus included the following: “What benefits do native plants have to humans and wildlife?”; “What native plants can we find right outside of school?”; “How do non-native plants affect the ecosystem?”; and “what are invasive species and why is it important to keep them under control?” In answering these questions, the students gained significant knowledge in plant parts and functions, nutritional needs of various indigenous plants, soils, and water, and the benefits of cultivating a garden.

In the process of gaining this knowledge, the students worked hard to weed, till, and plant donated native plants right outside of the school. The benefits of this new garden are multifold. Students who are involved in gardening at school get multidisciplinary opportunities on a daily basis, including biology, math, social studies, and even physical education. Soft skills are also addressed, such as interpersonal communication, organization, and time management. These valuable soft skills will be available to these students not only in the upcoming school year but also throughout their lives.

Another benefit to gardening at school is that it is an opportunity to connect with nature. In the urban setting that Takoda Prep is situated within, students don’t typically get a daily dose of nature. However, the therapeutic effects of engaging with the natural world have been proven over time. This directly relates to the first of the 7 L’s, Learning Out-of-Doors. “Through such direct interaction with the natural environment, students are afforded the opportunity to apply traditional teachings regarding responsibilities for stewardship of Mother Earth… .” Students will continue to reap the benefits of this garden and stewardship for years to come.

We were also able to connect as a community to the history of the space. If you have ever been to our campus at American Indian OIC, you may have noticed that our grounds are almost jungle-like in mid-summer! The lush vegetation provides a beautiful barrier from busy Cedar Avenue, and if you look closely, you can find many native plants. Sage, green onions, roses, ferns, and others are all among the beautiful outdoor classroom that is our campus. One lesson of summer school included the students venturing out onto the grounds and identifying the names of plants, whether or not they are native or invasive, and other scientific analyses. This deep interaction with the space in which these youths spend so much of their time connected them with the history and ecology of the area, but also forged their ownership over their space. These activities connect directly to leadership skills and the agency to advocate for their needs and goals (the fifth of the 7 L’s). Of course, the amount of physical and mental work this project required perhaps seemed daunting to the students at first, However, once the class finished the garden, they took a step back and could feel a deep sense of pride over their accomplishment.

Finally, the students took a field trip to Bdote (Fort Snelling) to identify plants and learn from a larger space. Learning in Redefined Spaces (the fourth of the 7 L’s) was a fantastic opportunity to remove the restrictions of the traditional school space. The students were free to walk and look at their own pace, and they applied the many skills we had been learning each day at summer school. Bdote is particularly important in terms of learning environments, as it is considered of major spiritual and historical importance to the Dakota.

More information about the renewal plan of Takoda Prep will be forthcoming this fall. To find out more information about enrolling a student in Takoda Prep for the 2017-18 school year, please contact Chris Hubbard, Education Director, at (612)341-3358, ext. 158.