Associate of Applied Science Transfer in Early Childhood Education
About the ECE Program:
Teaching and caring for the tribe’s youngest children is of tremendous importance to the Lummi Nation. Lummi people care deeply for their children and want them to thrive within their families, schools, and community.
This program of study is designed for people pursuing careers in the early care and education field. With a strong emphasis in early childhood, students are prepared for positions as lead teachers and for a variety of other employment opportunities in Head Start, child care, and other birth-to-eight programs. The student is also prepared to transfer to specific four-year degree programs. Students interested in transferring should consult with an NWIC advisor before selecting courses to ensure that they meet the requirements of the college or university of their choice.
PROMOTING CHILD DEVELOPMENT AND LEARNING
Upon successful completion of this program, students will:
- Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of children’s characteristics and needs.
Identify, analyze, and reflect upon multiple influences on child development and learning.
Create safe, healthy, respectful, challenging, and culturally supportive environments for learning.
BUILDING FAMILY AND COMMUNITY RELATIONSHIPS
Upon successful completion of this program, students will:
- Describe and reflect upon family and community characteristics within Native communities.
- Support and empower families and communities through respectful and reciprocal relationships.
- Involve Native families and communities in their children’s development and learning.
- Assist families in reinforcing resilience and accessing resources.
OBSERVING, DOCUMENTING, AND ASSESSING
Upon successful completion of this program, students will:
- Articulate the goals, benefits, uses, and culturally responsible uses of assessment.
- Use observation, documentation, and other appropriate assessment tools.
- Articulate uses of assessment in partnership with families and other professionals serving Indigenous communities.
TEACHING AND LEARNING
Upon successful completion of this program, students will:
- Demonstrate their ability to connect with children.
- Use developmentally and culturally effective approaches.
- Demonstrate an understanding of content knowledge in early education.
- Build meaningful, culturally engaged curriculum.
INTEGRITY, ADVOCACY, WARMTH, JOY, AND ATTENTION TO CHILDREN (COMMONLY REFERRED TO AS “PROFESSIONALISM”)
Upon successful completion of this program, students will:
- Identify with and involve selves in the early childhood field, engaging in continuous, collaborative learning.
- Act with integrity, engaging in informed advocacy for children, families, early learning programs, and themselves as early childhood educators.
- Integrate knowledgeable, reflective, and critical perspectives on early education.
- Display warmth, joy, and attention with a commitment to relationship-based care and education.
Presentation and Publications
Northwest Indian College Early Childhood Education Presentation
American Indian College Fund Annual Convening of Grantees
June 2016, Denver CO
Click image to open PDF
Northwest Indian College Early Childhood Education Presentation
University of Pennsylvania – Penn Graduate School of Education
Ethnography in Education Research Forum
February 2015, Philadelphia PA
Author: Kim Owen, Graduation Coach Co-Author: Nahrin Aziz, Project Director
With funding from the American Indian College Fund, Northwest Indian College’s (NWIC) Associate of Applied Science-Transfer in Early Childhood Education (ECE) degree program created a graduation coaching model for our students who were in the final year of their two-year degree program.
For the past academic year, eight graduates-to-be and our Graduation Coach met once a month to provide support toward successful course completion and degree attainment. They set individual and collective goals, planned how to achieve their goals, and shared study tips. These tips included evidence-based strategies about motivation, time management, prioritization, and goal setting. They started each Professional Learning Community (PLC) session reflecting on how things were going and their respective progress toward their goals. Afterward, students would break into small groups to discuss specific topics and share experiences or suggestions with each other.
Our Graduation Coach also facilitated discussions about managing math anxiety, because this had surfaced as a common concern among students who were finishing their required math credits. When one student said she felt she was not “smart enough” to do math, we delved into why this feeling emerged, talked about our experiences with math (both negative and positive), and then brainstormed ways in which we can overcome our fear. We also recognized and identified how we are always using math in our daily lives to highlight that we are all capable of doing math.
Furthermore, we used our PLC sessions to review upcoming deadlines related to graduation, such as completion and submission of documentation to graduate, earn their diploma, and participate in commencement. This helped to alleviate the pressures of juggling school, work, life, and meeting deadlines.
Students then met with their Graduation Coach individually to receive customized support. Our Coach served as a study partner and helped students to stay focused on their academic tasks. Students who participated agreed that the study sessions helped to motivate them.
During our final PLC session, students reflect on not only their final year, but also their entire journey at Northwest Indian College. The students’ responses all pointed to the power of college in helping them learn to believe in themselves and in opening doors. Students also created vision boards based on the respective goals they set for themselves in our previous PLC sessions. Students dreamt of where they want to be in a year and how they hope to have some time to relax. Knowing that they made it to the finish line and could now think of what they wanted to do next was a relief.
Throughout the project, the students reported what they found most helpful with the Graduation Coaching project. First, they appreciated having someone give them information and help them to navigate through their final quarters. Second, and more powerful, was the camaraderie they established with each other. As a result, NWIC’s ECE degree program has been able to sustain this project for future years. It was an honor and a privilege to work with these amazing students this year and we look forward to supporting our future graduates-to-be in a similar fashion!
Preschool Children Engaging in Indigenous Food Sovereignty:
By Katherine Friday
Photos courtesy of Jazeel Michel
“Food sovereignty is at the core of tribal sovereignty… My ancestor who signed the Medicine Creek Treaty made sure that access to native foods was ensured for generations to come. These foods have sustained our people’s physical health, cultural integrity and spiritual wellness since time immemorial.” (Quotation by Valerie Segrest, who helps coordinate the Muckleshoot Tribe’s Food Sovereignty Project, and is now with Feed Seven Generations, an organization focused on revitalizing native food culture in the Northwest.)
In alignment with the Northwest Indian College Early Learning Center’s Traditional Foods, Plants, and Medicines curriculum, children in the Preschool room recently planted potatoes and pumpkin seeds both in the classroom and in our Outdoor Learning Center play-scape. The children were bouncing with excitement, waiting to explore the organic materials and supplies for planting.
Recycled milk jugs, handfuls of soil, small bags of brown potatoes, a water pitcher, white construction paper, crayons/markers, and step by step pictures of how to plant a potato where displayed on the table. The children’s hands quickly explored each item as they moved down the table to begin their project. The children had time to look over the items and were asked open-ended questions to help with their experiential learning, which encouraged growth in the child’s mindset and personal responsibility.
After the children completed the step by step process of planting their potatoes, the potted potatoes where displayed in the center of the classroom for the children to water and observe daily. Through the children’s observation they could see that the stalks were getting very tall and falling over, so it was explained to the children about applying layers of soil to help the stalk stand tall. However, in a week or so we will have to transplant into even bigger containers!
The children were able to experience power of place through wonder and curiosity. Self-identity became part of this fun activity in a real and meaningful way. As the children tried to grasp handfuls of soil to fill their empty milk containers, they began to ask questions of How? What? When? and Where? Children wondered with excitement, “Teacher, teacher!!! How long will it take for the potatoes to grow? What do we do next? When can I water my potato? Where will the potatoes grow? How can I help my potato grow faster?” All of these questions foster critical thinking skills and constructivism.
Not only did these activities support cognitive and physical development, but they also supported social / emotional development as well. Our children in the preschool room had daily opportunities for exploration through play. The children were able to use their imagination in the dramatic play area where they cut up real potatoes for their potato soup. We invite you to come join us for a cup of soup, using potatoes harvested by the children in the preschool room, during these chilly winter months!
By Taja Oberly
Photographs courtesy of Jazeel Michel, Alex Stribling, and Treena Humphreys
As we pass our Sensory Garden every day on the way to school, the school day begins, as students notice the changes in the garden and point them out to their families. They describe various plants and talk about how things smell and feel. They take pride in caring for and sharing their garden.
The garden reflects a variety of plants that are local to the area and can be useful for cooking or for health purposes. Introductions to plants began with anatomy and care. Students learned what was needed for plants to grow and asked questions exploring the differences between caring for plants in Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer. The students graphed the number of leaves they removed while maintaining the garden.
We bring plants from the garden into the classroom. We compare the smell and feel of plants from our garden, using all senses to describe and define each one. The children are able to tie in the community as they talk about the plants and how they use them at home. We compare the shapes and sizes of the leaves. We discuss the weather and how it affects our garden. Teachers and students bring books in from their own homes to share. Story telling is an important part of our community and students and teachers alike share how they grew or harvested various plants.
Classrooms are set up to reflect the culture and background within our area. Natural wood and tree building in the block area and outdoors. Books and other literacy materials reflect our history and culture with representations of both Indigenous Languages and English. In our Art area, the students picked plants to paint on or with using a variety of mediums.
Daily observations of the children allow teachers to better follow the children’s ideas and direction of thought. They allow us to document the internalization of the ideas and concepts introduced. Questions and discussions are used to explore ideas and build upon the imagination and life-experience of the children. A teacher can encourage a student to explore ideas and incorporate their community. Classroom lesson plans reflect the foundation of local family and community. During a nutrition lesson, the students discussed the uses of the garden plants at their school to the plants they grow at home or harvest.
Allowing a variety of materials in the classroom from our community reflects in the student’s imagination. The concepts pulled from Science, Technology, Engineering and Math are applied to our students everyday activities and discussions.
By Alex Elizabeth Stribling, Lead Toddler Teacher
Northwest Indian College’s Early Learning Center has innovated an Interactive Sensory Garden that enables preschool children to engage in experiential STEM education. The lush and lively garden is the very first thing children see when they come to school, making it even more engaging when their teachers guide a walk through it. Whether we are experiencing rain or sunshine, our children have engaged in the garden and witnessed the plants grow over the last few months. As teachers, we can only do so much by showing children how plants grow through pictures and arts/crafts. To have a live sensory garden that greets them every day is something only mother nature can teach.
What piques the children’s interest so much is the different textures the plants have. Stachys byzantina (lamb’s ear) has been an instant favorite, which the children refer to as “bunny ears.” It is one of the larger plants toward which the children gravitate, and it is too intriguing not to touch. We have several tiny succulents that are all over the sensory garden. With a little guidance from teachers – since some of them are so tiny to see – the children gather and awe at the waxy coat these plants have.
To maintain the garden, the children and teachers go out with scissors and water pails to give the sensory garden a “haircut” and a “drink.” After trimming weeds and flowers, we bring them back into the classroom to examine them (through sight, touch, and smell). Children also paint with the leaves and make stamps with them. Thus, this garden has been well used!
The impact of this sensory garden has been incredibly helpful and useful to children and teachers. It is an example to our children that education is not bound within the four walls of a classroom. We are reinforcing Native family values and practices, by demonstrating to children learning is a constant exploration in our everyday lives – inside and outside. The garden has been a great teaching tool as the teachers explain the process of the plant’s life cycle. We also have the opportunity to discover new bugs and insects as we sift through the garden. The bees were out this past summer, which resulted in excellent conversations about their purpose as pollinators!
This sensory garden prompts children, and adults alike, to literally engage outside of the box. There is space to discover what our natural elements can teach us, reminding people of all ages that it is a good thing to take the time to wander, engage, learn, and grow.
Written by Alex Stribling, Preschool Teacher
Northwest Indian College Early Learning Center
Do you hear those sounds? They are the sounds of birds, bugs, and children playing! It is spring, and we are fully experiencing the new season at Northwest Indian College’s Early Learning Center.
One of our goals in our preschool room is to keep children exploring their indigenous roots through science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education while having fun. April has brought us many showers, but we have managed to keep children excited to learn with so many of their new tools, made possible by our Early Childhood Education STEM Initiative grant, funded by the American Indian College Fund.
Discovering the variety of animals and insects in our classroom is something that the children have enjoyed immensely. Coming into school as a three-year-old, a child’s knowledge of animals may be limited to a few farm animals or one type of dog. These animal figurines, which represent the fauna located around the Salish Sea, have so much realistic detail to them. Children cannot help but ask, “What kind of bird is this? What sound does it make? Where does it live?” The children are learning there are many more different kinds of animals, birds, and insects than the ones they have in their existing vocabularies.
The children have also been learning about life cycles of bugs, birds, and animals. Feeding their minds with natural growth and showing them in an accessible way has changed how they address an animal or bird in nature. They have started paying attention to what stage a creature may be at in its life cycle, commenting, “That’s a baby worm. That bird is full grown!” Teaching this has been thrilling because we can see the children’s vocabularies grow and their understanding deepen, as they retain the information they are learning from the outdoors.
Once we established that there are many types of living creatures, we started to paint them. The children love exploring the different colors that make up their animal as they traced it from a photo. Seeing the various shapes and using numerous colors nearly brought the animals to life as we tried a new medium of artwork!
We then studied rivers and fish. In order to teach children about rivers, we had them go fishing one day and wash rocks with soapy water the next. Providing children with hands-on activities that match our place-based curriculum helps them see that what we teach and learn at the Early Learning Center aligns with what they do in their home communities. When you engage children in body-to-brain connections and movement-based activities, they better retain what they are learning. With both, their explorations of Indigenous STEM education are endless!
Northwest Indian College has just finished constructing its Children’s Interactive Sensory Garden. The garden supports children’s education in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). It has been thoughtfully designed to allow young children to observe, explore, and interact with a small ecosystem featuring plants that are indigenous to the area, hold traditional significance, and/or provide textural or botanical interest. The space provides a living laboratory where children can engage in experiential learning of STEM concepts at school, throughout the seasons.
Native Children Living on Salish Sea Meet and Greet Sea Creatures
By Christine Edwards, Teacher, Northwest Indian College
In early November, the Salish Sea Research Center team from Northwest Indian College visited our Early Learning Center classrooms. Our students were excited to see what they had brought because the scientists arrived with a mysterious, big, red ice chest. The children called it “a treasure chest of sea creatures!”
The older children learned more about these creatures as they painted oyster and clamshells. The toddlers were more interested in trying to put creatures in their mouth because young children make sense of the world around them through taste.
It was such a sight for the children and teachers alike to see what was in the red ice chest.
The first creature they met a sea urchin. The children were afraid of it at first, but then there was the excitement of being able to touch it using gentle hands. They got to see how the sea urchin moves its legs and how spiny it felt to them.
Next, they met a sand dollar. One child asked what they could buy with it, because of its name! The scientists explained it does not have a value to people but is of great value to the sea.
My favorite part was seeing how the children squealed when they met the crab. One child was initially scared. He stayed near his mom’s side until she reassured him. He then opened up, took a risk, touched the crab, and got to watch it walk sideways on the table.
The research team got the children’s undivided attention by bringing the live sea creatures to meet them and by letting them paint seashells. This exercise was a great way to get youngsters involved with STEM education and the expressions of joy on the children’s faces was priceless.
The children were so delighted they talked about the experience long after the team had left. One child said, “Did you see me touch the crab? I was not scared anymore!”
The children’s reactions shows the importance of holistic learning activities. Young kids engage in cognitive development by learning about sea creatures; physical development by touching the creatures and describing the textures; and social/emotional development by conquering their fears.
Engaging Native Children in STEM: What Our X’epy (Cedar People) and Scha’nexw (Salmon People) Can Teach Us about the World and Cosmology
Northwest Indian College has received another Early Childhood Education (ECE) grant entitled, For the Wisdom of the Children: Strengthening the Teacher of Color Pipeline, from the American Indian College Fund. It has three areas of focus:
1. Strengthening and expanding the teacher of color pipeline;
2. Developing more science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education for early childhood educators; and
3. Creating STEM education opportunities for Native children.
NWIC’s project is called, Engaging Native Children in STEM: What Our X’epy (Cedar People) and Scha’nexw (Salmon People) Can Teach Us about the World and Cosmology.
The grant will support NWIC’s ECE degree program by developing ECE math and science curricula. We will also collaborate with our early learning partner, NWIC’s Early Learning Center, to expand the Outdoor Learning Classroom by creating a sensory garden for children.
A Coordinating Team has been created, consisting of Thayne Yazzie (NWIC Salish Sea Research Center), Zachariah Bunton (NWIC Math Department), and Cynthia Wilson, appointed by the Lummi Nation Culture and Language Department to serve as its representative and liaison.
As Project Director and Principal Investigator, I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to everyone involved in the process of helping to secure this grant, including but not limited to members of the aforementioned Coordinating Team, NWIC Administrators (President Justin Guillory, Vice President Carole Rave, Dean Bernice Portervint), NWIC Coast Salish Institute (Dean Sharon Kinley), and the Lummi Nation Culture and Language Department (Al Scott Johnnie and Ted Solomon).
For more information about the Native ECE STEM Initiative, visit the College Fund’s website and for more information about the five TCU’s that received the grant, visit the College Fund’s blog.
Article written by, Nahrin Aziz-Parsons
Our project is supported by a grant awarded to Northwest Indian College by the American Indian College Fund’s ͞For the Wisdom of the Children: Strengthening the Teach of Color Pipeline.͟For the Wisdom of the Children ECE STEM Initiative is generously funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (Grant #P0131181) and the community-based programming is in part supported by supplemental funding provided by the Toyota Motor Company.
A gathering for Northwest Indian College’s Restorative Teachings Early Childhood Education Initiative recently took place at our Early Learning Center. Joined by aunties, uncles, grandparents, elders, close friends, and children, we celebrated the completion of our Outdoor Learning Classroom.
While listening to the Eagle Blessing Song, a song that comes from the water, alongside the beating of a drum, a child looks with intention and focus. That itself is demonstrative of the Restorative Teachings ECE Initiative, promoting meaningful and relevant early learning experiences and provoking further discussions of Indigenous peoples and our ways of life.
Featuring a story pole, orca carving, and Lummi language cedar plaques designating the different play and learning areas, our Outdoor Learning Classroom embraces the natural elements by which we are surrounded here in the Lummi Nation. We intentionally designed this space to foster children’s active exploration of their outside environment while learning about Coast Salish ways of life. While in the Outdoor Learning Classroom, early childhood educators engage children in experiential education, thus supporting their learning, growth, and development in a holistic way.
How blessed we are as teachers and administrators to be able to experience this nature-rich play-scape with young Native children in our care. The extension of the classroom curriculum to an Outdoor Learning Classroom keeps children and teachers deeply engaged in the teachings and increases our awareness of ways in which we can learn from natural elements. For it is the world around us that grounds us and enables us to truly identify with our inner selves. Moreover, our Outdoor Learning Classroom environment helps to foster this healthy curiosity about the world in young children. Today, we celebrated with a group of individuals who share not only a vision of connecting early learning experiences to community and to place, but also, who share a respect for how we envision learning, as Indigenous peoples.
– Article written by Katherine Friday and Nahrin Aziz-Parsons-Photos courtesy of Juanita Jefferson and Cynthia Wilson
Lawrence Solomon of the Blackhawk Singers made a special visit to the Northwest Indian College’s Early Learning Center to share his gifts with the children and staff. Mr. Solomon’s visit came during our celebration of traditional songs week to enhance our classroom learning and hands on experience. Children had the opportunity to listen and participate in the traditional song and dance.
Mr. Solomon brought his hand drum and the children played our classroom drums and clappers, provided by the Restorative Teachings Early Childhood Education Initiative. The children were also encouraged to dance. Each child had a chance to try out Mr. Solomon’s drum and ask questions. Early Learning Center staff and children from the Infant room, toddler room, preschool room, kitchen and office participated in this multigenerational event.
Fingers wrapped tightly
Skin pulled taut
By firelight or heat
Hearts, Ancestors, Lives
Give sound to movement
With us, in us
Who we are
Who we will be
Of those who came before
For those who come after
Each wanting more
For the next
Remembered, new, to come
Fingers wrapped tightly
The drum, the song, the dance
Poem and article courtesy of Rachel Goodman, Lead Preschool Teacher and Colville Descendant
On February 3rd, Bellingham Technical College hosted the 33rd annual Focus on Children conference. The conference, which draws early childhood educators from a five-county region and over five Tribal Nations, is designed to: (1) provide professional development and networking opportunities to those working with young children and families; (2) promote inclusive attitudes and practices and support awareness of and action related to diversity issues; and (3) support partnerships and collaboration among educators, families, providers, school, agencies and our communities. All Northwest Indian College (NWIC) Early Learning Center (ELC) staff, including teachers and administrators, were in attendance at this year’s conference.
Dr. Anna Lees, a descendant of the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians, an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education at Western Washington University, and a member of the Restorative Teachings Early Childhood Education (ECE) Initiative Coordinating Team, gave the keynote presentation. Dr. Lees’ presentation, entitled Enriching Early Childhood Education with Indigenous Community, School, and University Collaboration, focused on school-community partnerships, highlighting ways in which early childhood educators can collaborate with local Tribes to enhance education for not only Native children, but for all children in grades Preschool through 12. Dr. Lees featured Northwest Indian College’s Restorative Teachings ECE Initiative in her keynote presentation as an example in practice, underscoring the various ways in which NWIC’s ECE degree program has engaged parents, teachers, tribal leaders, and community members to strengthen systems of care and learning for Native children and families.
Nahrin Aziz-Parsons, Restorative Teachings ECE Initiative Project Director, later chaired and facilitated a breakout session, entitled Fostering Whole Child Health and Wellness in Indigenous Education: Engaging in Experiential Education to Learn about Coast Salish Ways of Life, to contextualize this information locally.She and members of the Restorative Teachings Coordinating Team, Dr. Anna Lees, Cynthia Wilson (Lummi scholar and elder), and Alicia Allard (NWIC ELC Director), presented on our project and its three efforts: (1) curriculum reform, (2) nature-rich, place-based Outdoor Learning Classroom, and (3) site-embedded, relationship-based professional development. We concluded the workshop by engaging attendees in a discussion, during which they identified ways in which to engage Native families and Tribal Nations in launching projects and initiatives in their respective communities.
Article written by and photos courtesy of Nahrin Aziz-Parsons, M.Ed., Lead ECE Faculty, Restorative Teachings Project Director, and Focus on Children Conference Planning Committee Member.
Workshop By Johanna Phair
As we kick off a new academic year with Dr. Anna Lees, Alicia Allard and Nahrin Aziz-Parsons, Northwest Indian College’s Early Learning Center teaching staff created learning activities with items from our natural environment and art supplies. Teaching teams worked together and designed lesson plans that aligned with our newly developed Traditional Foods, Plants, and Medicines curriculum.
Later in the afternoon, we became familiar with supplemental materials, including kits that consist of books, puppets, toys and games. The kits center on a salmon unit and include other animals and fish that are connected to land and water, such as eagles, star fish, and orca. By the end of our workshop, the ELC teaching staff finished designing the first two weeks of lessons, for the start of the new academic year!
On Wednesday, August 2nd Northwest Indian College’s Early Childhood Education degree program and Restorative Teachings Initiative hosted 20 visitors from Southwest University in Chongqing, China. The group included ECE faculty and teacher candidates from Southwest University, and practicing teachers from their partnering ECE programs. Their day with Northwest Indian College focused on the land, water, and place based teaching with young children and families. The group was first welcomed at the Lummi Nation Early Learning Center with an introduction from Lummi Education Director, Bernie Thomas, and Lummi Early Learning Director Bonnie Hayward. From there, they traveled to the Northwest Indian College Early Learning Center where they were welcomed by Early Learning Center Director Alicia Allard. At both centers, the group was provided with a tour of the buildings and discussion around how the teachers support child development through culturally responsive practices, inclusive of families and community. They were offered an opportunity to examine early learning curriculum and observe teachers’ interactions with young children in both indoor and outdoor learning spaces.
After visiting the Early Learning Centers, the Southwest University visitors spent the afternoon on the Northwest Indian College campus to learn about the ECE Restorative Teachings Project. Facilitated by Nahrin Aziz-Parsons (Northwest Indian College ECE Faculty) and Anna Lees (Western Washington University ECE Faculty), they examined efforts to develop a land, water, and placed based curriculum in collaboration with children’s families and community members and grounded in Lummi teachings and values. The group took time to understand the context of early childhood education in an Indigenous community and made connections to the goals of advancing equity and diversity within their teacher education program and early learning centers. They shared that they were touched and inspired by our work, our environments for young Native children, and our overall commitment to indigenous education. The day was full of collective learning and deepened understandings around global efforts to center early education in aims of community well-being.
– Article written by, Anna Lees, Ed.D.
Written by, Oomagelees (Cynthia Wilson, M.Ed.) and Nahrin Aziz-Parsons, M.Ed.
The Washington State Department of Early Learning (DEL) works with Tribal Nations to help ensure all children and families have access to early learning resources and information. This year, DEL hosted a Tribal Early Learning Language Summit, in order to further reach this goal.
This was the first early learning language summit of its kind in Washington State, which is working to build bridges and foster partnerships that support young Native children’s growth and development. Furthermore, this language summit is closely aligned to Northwest Indian College’s Restorative Teachings Early Childhood Education (ECE) Initiative, a Tribal College and University collaborative to strengthen systems of care and learning with Native families and children. With generous support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, through the American Indian College Fund, the Restorative Teachings ECE Initiative draws upon child development knowledge from within Native communities melded with the best practices identified in the field of early childhood education.
While at the language summit, we explored how learning a language is a form of exercise for the brain. Learning language makes the brain stronger and helps with many cognitive developments. As early childhood educators, we create meaningful learning opportunities that result in the growth of a child’s brain, and we also assist families in identifying this time as the opportune time to expand a child’s learning through oral language development.
Exposing children to more than one language changes the structure of the brain and strengthens executive functioning skills (including mental flexibility, working memory, and impulse control). There are many benefits to learning more than one language at a time, aside from having better focus, concentration, and attention. There is extreme mental flexibility and the child is more perceptive to his / her surroundings. The bilingual brain processes the sounds of language using different parts and sections. The brain is amazing and it is has a stronger function when receiving and understanding more than one language. Research corroborates that there is increased activity in areas of brain function in babies who hear more than one language. Speaking to your child in your Native language allows the child to hear many different sounds and the brain makes space for all sounds of the language that is learned.
The brain is primed to learn language early in life, so it is easier for young children to learn a second language. This makes early childhood an integral time to support children’s dual language learning. As Indigenous educators, we can teach them their own Native languages and also support them with the English language as well.
While at the summit, we also discussed ways in which language plays a very important role in Tribal communities, because it is the connector to the culture of the children. Languages can be learned through many aspects in the early learning program and helps with creating a positive individual and cultural identity and enhancing one’s self-worth. When children have high self-esteem and know who they are and grow being proud of whom they are, then they become strong leaders in their Tribal nations.
During the summit, many scholars and Native language speakers gifted the attendees by sharing their Native language. Most importantly, we came to the realization that although the struggle of Native language reclamation, restoration and revitalization still exists, we cannot allow this difficulty to stop our desire and our drive to help Native children learn their Native tongue. We have to create learning opportunities allowing them to be who they are, and we must also be respectful of their culture and language. This helps children grow into the healthy, capable, and competent young adults who their Nations want them to be.
A child’s first five years of life are fundamentally important, because they are the foundation of health, wellness, growth and development. We must therefore ensure that we offer Native children and families high-quality early learning experiences. When walking into a classroom in a Tribal early learning program, we should know exactly where we are without having to be told. We will see it on the walls, hear it from the children, and smell it from the kitchen. We are in the home of The People whose lands are the ones on which we are standing. This is where Native children and their cultures are to be valued. By supporting and advocating for children’s Native language development, we are showing great respect to the children, their families, and communities; and in return, the children show great respect as well.
Participating in Professional Development: How Early Learning Center staff members engage in collective inquiry to design meaningful lesson plans for Tribal nations’ youngest citizens
While many Northwest Indian College (NWIC) faculty members and students were off for spring break, early childhood educators from our Early Learning Center (ELC) dedicated one full day to engage in collective inquiry. Administrators and lead teachers came together for a Professional Learning Community (PLC) co-facilitated by Dr. Anna Lees, Curriculum Coach, Alicia Allard, ELC Director, and Nahrin Aziz-Parsons, Early Childhood Education faculty.
We began our session with a team building exercise, in an effort to strengthen our own early learning community and to feel confident about the start of spring quarter.We then delved into hard work. Our activities included thinking critically about the site-embedded professional development model in which we are engaged focusing on (1) our Traditional Plants and Foods Curriculum, created in partnership with the Lummi Nation Culture and Language Department and (2) our observation, documentation, and assessment practices. We also viewed videos about and reflected on integrated and place-based teaching in Indigenous contexts.
We also took a nature walk, along with representatives from NWIC’s Native Environmental Science (NES) degree program. We explored NWIC’s Salish Sea Garden, and under the guidance of NES students, began identifying Native plants in their natural habitat. The nature walk inspired us to then brainstorm relevant topic areas for spring quarter planning. It is our intention to move away from focusing our lesson plans on holidays, and move toward creating more meaningful units of study, grounded in Sense of Place and based on seasons, community events, and local flora and fauna. This represents our efforts to think more holistically, and design lesson plans that enable young children to examine the interactions and relationality between plants, animals, and humans.
When asked if the ELC PLC was beneficial, Cindy Ayala, Lead Infant Teacher, responded, “I look forward to seeing how the Early Learning Center will continue to add [Native] values into our weekly planning; so far we are off to a great start!”
-Written by, Nahrin Aziz-Parsons, Project Director
Staff members at the NWIC Early Learning Center recently attended the 33rd annual FOCUS on Children Conference at Bellingham Technical College, sponsored by The Northwest Washington Association for the Education of Young Children (NW AEYC), Bellingham Technical College, The Opportunity Council and Whatcom Educational Credit Union. The theme of this year’s conference was Nurturing Connections Through Our Senses, and a the day-long conference provided numerous workshop sessions related to this concept as well as practical tools for classroom management and leadership.
The Keynote speaker, Ray Soriano, spoke of his work supporting resiliency in young children who face adverse circumstances, and offered insights into his approach to supporting the protective factors in individual children’s lives. The speaker noted five specific ways early childhood educators can reflect on and enhance their support of children in their care; supporting physical and emotional safety, awareness of our own triggers, identifying and supporting the unique strengths of each family, helping boys connect, and sharing our own interests with children. He noted that the goal of early childhood educators should be to engage with children in a way that helps them thrive, and supports their lifelong resiliency to face and overcome adverse experiences. Preschool Teacher Anna Somerville noted that her role is, “to create an environment (both physical and emotional) that fosters children who can flourish despite adversity”. This focus on fostering whole-child health and wellness is a cornerstone of the work we do at the NWIC Early Learning Center, in the Associate of Applied Science-Transfer degree program, and throughout the Restorative Teachings Early Childhood Education Initiative.
The ELC staff also attended several workshop sessions throughout the day, and came away with many useful tools they plan to incorporate into their professional “toolbox”. Teachers attended morning workshops on using screening and assessment tools to support young children’s development, and addressing challenging behavior in the classroom through positive guidance and curriculum. The ELC Director attended the morning session led by Restorative Teachings Principal Investigator Nahrin Aziz-Parsons. This session, attended by staff from various local child care programs as well as early childhood professionals from local tribal organizations, provided an overview of the NWIC Restorative Teachings project to date, and the importance of involving families and tribal communities in order to create place-based learning opportunities for Native children.
Afternoon workshops included sessions on understanding and building attachment with young children, and preventing expulsion from early childhood programs through planning and positive guidance. Additionally, Management staff attended sessions on Leadership and the CLASS reflective supervision framework, as well as creating and sustaining a positive workplace through reflection and collaboration. Infant Teacher Christine Edwards noted that she, “walked away with more understanding” after attending the workshop on building attachment. Additionally, several staff commented that the workshops helped them expand on the knowledge they bring to the classroom in a way that will enhance their teaching and relationships with children and families. All staff who attended received six hours of certified STARS training, a total of 10 annual STARS training hours are required by the Washington State Department of Early Learning for all teaching staff. The staff of the NWIC ELC would like to thank the American Indian College Fund and the Restorative Teachings grant for the opportunity to expand our understanding of the important role we play in the lives of the children we serve, and the ways we can continue to build our skills through reflection and collaboration.
-Alicia Allard, ELC Director
On a blustery and bitterly cold December night, the NWIC Early Learning Center cranked up the heat and welcomed families and community members to celebrate traditional plants and foods in Coast Salish culture. In spite of the winters chill, the event was an amazing success, with nine enrolled Early Learning Center (ELC) families, and eight families from the Lummi community.
The Families came to enjoy fresh grilled salmon caught by Lummi fisherman, homemade clam chowder and frybread cooked by the Lummi Blackhawks Spirit Squad, the Booster Club for the Lummi Nation School sports teams. The food was blessed by Lee Plaster, to show our appreciation for the abundance of food, friends and family and to honor the cooks and fisherman.
The ELC staff prepared activities for children in its large preschool room and provided free childcare during the event. Children and families were entertained after dinner by local storyteller Frank Goes Behind, who shared Coast Salish cultural legends in a way that demonstrated his many years of work in early childhood programs and his talent for traditional storytelling. Frank began his performance by reminding guests that the cold winter months are traditionally the time to gather together with family and friends for food, crafting and stories after the work of gathering and storing food and supplies has ended for the season.
After Frank completed several stories for both children, families and guests, event organizers thanked him and warmly invited the adult guests and older children to join us in an adjacent building for a cedar bark weaving demonstration hosted by Lee and Isabelle Plaster and Nanette Christenson, local cedar weavers, who taught guests how to make cedar roses or cedar bracelets depending on their interest and ability. The bark of the Western Red Cedar has traditionally been harvested and woven into baskets, clothes, hats, blankets, while the wood is used for carving totems, canoes and tools.
Our event was designed to honor the use of this versatile traditional plant and its continued cultural importance to the community as a natural resource and connection totraditional knowledge. And we soon realized that our event had a much greater impact as well. This event served as a catalyst that resulted in the Plaster family, which led our cedar weaving activities, to start its new business. In addition to the business license and insurance that they had already secured, immediately following our Family Engagement Event, the Plasters secured rental space in a nearby shopping center, in order to showcase their artwork and continue to facilitate cedar weaving classes for tribal members and those interested from neighboring communities.
The Plaster family has also intensified its marketing efforts, posting flyers all over Bellingham, WA and speaking to fellow business owners and leaders in other tribal nations about their endeavors.And they have invited extended family members to join in their entrepreneurial efforts. As one witness expressed, the Restorative Teachings Family Engagement Event has really encouraged the Plaster family “to blossom,” resulting in significant and positive changes in their “self-esteem and confidence” (Adib Jamshedi, Personal Communication, January 4, 2017).
Most importantly, our event helped to instill in the Plaster family a sense of purpose. They feel more useful in their community and are honored to have the opportunity to share their Indigenous knowledge with others.As the aforementioned story exemplifies, the Restorative Teachings Early Childhood Education Initiative is building stronger foundations for economic access and security for tribal members!
The Restorative Teachings Coordinating Team and the NWIC Early Learning Center thank all who supported and attended this wonderful family engagement event. We look forward to continuing to bring our families and community together in ways that are meaningful, support traditional knowledge, and are fun for the whole family.
Written by Alicia Allard, NWIC ELC Director and Nahrin Aziz-Parsons, Restorative Teachings Project Director
During the summer of 2016 the Northwest Indian College Early Learning Center (ELC) Director made the difficult decision to remove the large natural log-lined sandbox from the main play area. This structure was built by volunteers in 2009 and reflected the tidal shores that surround the Lummi Reservation. The sandbox was filled with natural sand similar to what you might find on the local beaches, and surrounded by large smooth sections of split logs that brought to mind the weatherworn driftwood the children on the Salish Sea grow up climbing on.
Sadly, by 2016 the wood frame had deteriorated to the point that it had become hazardous, and the difficult decision was made to remove it. It was replaced with an 8×8’ cedar framed in-ground sandbox, filled with the same natural sand. A new cover was made to meet Licensing requirements, using a mesh cover weighted at the corners with crab pot bait bags stuffed with smooth beach stones. These items are familiar to many of the Early Learning Center children whose families fish and crab for food and income. Our hope is that this new natural sand play space will continue to evolve as we develop our vision for the Coast Salish inspired Outdoor Learning Center at the ELC.
-Written by Alicia Allard, Director, Northwest Indian College Early Learning Center
On August 4th, members of the Restorative Teachings Early Childhood Education Initiative Coordinating Team visited Northwest Indian College’s Swinomish Extended Campus Site, in order to research and learn more about their widely acclaimed and highly renowned Native plants garden.
Beth Willup, who graduated from Northwest Indian College (NWIC) in 2015, and Gaylene Gobert, Site Manager, graciously hosted us. They explained that their Native plants garden, called “13 Moons Garden,” focuses on traditional, seasonal foods. Just recently, they made over 60 jars of blackberry and strawberry jam, all of which came from their garden, to not only create a healthier version of the food, with reduced and / or natural forms of sugar, but also, to share at a clam bake with elders, tribal leaders, NWIC students, and community members!
We learned that the entire community supports planting and maintaining the garden, including but not limited to, NWIC students, Swinomish Wisdom Warriors, junior high school students, and those who need help paying for utility bills, as a form of community service. They also created a curriculum entitled, Growing our Own Garden Curriculum. These efforts help to support the sustainability of the community-wide initiative / project.
We are very grateful to our colleagues at NWIC’s Swinomish Extended Campus Site, for hosting us, giving us a warm welcome, and teaching us about their 13 Moons Native plants garden. We look forward to incorporating the lessons learned, as we build our own traditional plants garden at NWIC’s Early Learning Center, to support teaching and learning with young Native children.
Article written by and photos taken by Nahrin Aziz-Parsons, Project Director
Restorative Teachings Family Engagement Event: Whole Child Health and Wellness and Securing Families
On May 20, 2016, Northwest Indian College’s (NWIC) Restorative Teachings Initiative Coordinating Team held a family engagement event for the families of children enrolled at NWIC’s Early Learning Center (ELC). The purpose of this event was to introduce families to our Restorative Teachings Early Childhood Education Initiative-, share about the positive changes that will affect the ELC and NWIC, and to get a deeper understanding of the families’ conception of child health, nutrition, and wellness. We also wanted to remind families how invaluable their input and thoughts are in regards to this grant/project.
Eight families attended, and first enjoyed a nutritious lunch of sandwiches, vegetable trays, fruit trays and salad with their children. Next, they had an opportunity to listen to guest speaker Robert Desmond, a nurse practitioner at the Lummi Tribal Health Clinic. He addressed the importance of health and wellness and explained how traditional plants and foods naturally prevented diseases and illnesses, such as diabetes and obesity. He also gave examples of how the garden at the Lummi Tribal Health Clinic has both place-based garden and children’s garden. Robert Desmond has existing relationships with several families at NWIC’s ELC and as a result, families seemed pleased seeing and hearing someone they know express the importance of child health, nutrition and wellness.
Following our guest speaker, we had the opportunity to formally introduce families to our Restorative Teachings ECE Initiative. We clearly stated and simplify the grant project down to four sheets of poster paper, which highlighted overarching themes, project overview, and partnerships. There was quite a bit of information given to the parents and families, and in return, they were able to give their thoughts and ideas for the project afterwards.
In order to ensure Lummi parents’ and families’ voices were heard, we created an activity that elicited ideas of how focusing on traditional plants and foods and an outdoor early learning center will support Native children’s growth and development (including cognitive, physical, social / emotional, and spiritual). For instance, one parent explained how she is excited that her son can now practice gathering, while he attends NWIC ELC, which is something they do at home, too. Another family member stated how happy she was that NWIC was focusing on the best interest of Lummi children and their cultural upbringings. All of the responses are being used to guide our project so that it better meets the needs of Native families and children’s.
Our family engagement event concluded with a nutrition demonstration that focused on health and wellness and securing families, and gift bags, that promoted nutrition, health and wellness. which were distributed to all families of the NWIC ELC The families in attendance of our first family engagement event left being better informed of the project taking place where their children are attending, and having the opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas on how to strengthen the project to best meet the community’s needs.
Written by, Alexis Ballew, Parent Representative
Contributing writer, Nahrin Aziz-Parsons, Project Director
Northwest Indian College Restorative Teachings Coordinating Team Members
From left to right: Anna Somerville, Early Childhood Educator; Alexis Ballew, Parent Representative; Nahrin Aziz-Parsons, Project Director; and Alicia Allard, Early Learning Partner
When I was asked to participate in the Restorative Teaching Early Childhood Education Initiative Coordinating Team for Northwest Indian College (NWIC), I jumped at the opportunity. I knew this would be an incredible opportunity for me both personally and professionally. I would get to be a part of a project that would do great things for the very community I come from, while at the same time, furthering my experience in the academic world.
As soon as we arrived at the Convening of Grantees, I realized how much there was to learn. As the other teams presented I realized how different we were, how different our project goals were, and how differently the entire aspect of whole child wellness can be perceived from within different tribal nations. As each team presented, I learned something new. Our main focus at Northwest Indian College is building an outdoor learning classroom, introducing more native plants to the children, and increasing physical activity levels. The other grantees’ ideas included ideas I had never even thought of. For example, Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute is offering teachers trainings about economic development, with the idea being that families who can obtain economic security can afford to make decisions such as buying healthier, but often, more expensive food. Another example is Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College’s idea of incorporating safe sleep practices and car seat safety practices into their project goals. Each presentation was unique but equally interesting and gave me ideas to bring back home. I returned to NWIC with page after page of notes to share with my team as well as with the teachers at the NWIC Early Learning Center.
Out of the many activities and sessions I attended while I was in Denver (including a nature and wellness tour on the Denver trolley and health expedition session held at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science) what resonated with me the most was the time spent with the other grantees. This opportunity would have been otherwise impossible since the teams are scattered across different regions of the country.
Collaborating with them as well as with our American Indian College Fund (AICF) Senior Program Officer and AICF consultants was beyond inspiring. For example, during a drama activity we got to learn how acting can be a fun, clever way to teach young children about the human body. We also participated in many other activities as a combined entity, not as separate teams. Group interactions like these allowed us to learn about each other and from each other. Sharing knowledge amongst ourselves and motivating each other not only as experts in our field but as individuals helped me to come home feeling uplifted with new ideas, ready to get to work on the next steps in this process. At one point fellow NWIC coordinating team member Alicia Allard said to me “conferences and convenings like this give us the motivation to keep going”. Personally, I couldn’t agree more with Alicia’s statement. As a team we have a lot of hard work ahead of us but we now have new ideas and renewed motivation to push forward, thanks to the Restorative Teaching Early Childhood Education Initiative ECE Convening.
Written by, Anna Somerville, Lead Preschool Teacher
Whole Child Health and Wellness: Focusing on Child Nutrition and Economic Security with Parents and Families
On May 20, 2016, Northwest Indian College’s Restorative Teachings Early Childhood Education Initiative, in partnership with the NWIC Early Learning Center, hosted a family engagement event, including a luncheon and introduction to the Restorative Teachings grant project. Most importantly, the purpose of the event was to invite parents and family members of young children at NWIC’s ELC, our formal early learning partner in the Restorative Teachings project, to engage in the Initiative’s visioning, planning, and development process with us.
The event planning team, which included members of the Restorative Teachings Coordinating Team, felt that child nutrition (specifically, whole child health and wellness and family security) would make an excellent family education and discussion topic for our introduction to the Restorative Teachings project. The planning team identified several specific topics related to these goals, which were targeted to the developmental stages of the children enrolled at the NWIC early Learning Center: Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers.
As toddlers are often at the in-between stage of outgrowing infant foods, but still transitioning into table foods, we wanted to address common questions about introducing young toddlers to more complex (yet easy to prepare) foods and involving them in family mealtimes. Many parents struggle over when and how to transition older infants and young toddlers from self-directed meal schedules to more regular mealtimes with the family. It can also be difficult for parents to buy and prepare affordable and nutritious meals that will keep everyone in the family happy. To address this common family dilemma, which can be a barrier to child nutrition as well as a financial burden, we decided to demonstrate to families how they might plan easy meals, prepared in advance, that are more nutritious and more affordable than store-bought / pre-packaged options sold by baby food companies.
Alicia Allard, Early Learning Center Director, led a nutrition demonstration, comparing healthy homemade versus pre-packaged food options. She had purchased a box of name brand “Graduates” Cheese Ravioli in Tomato Sauce with Mixed Vegetables from a local grocery story. This food item is marketed to toddlers who are beginning to eat mixed texture foods and learning to use a spoon, which is the age that many families begin to integrate their child into the family table. It is also the stage when overwhelmed or unsure parents may feel these premade meals are a quick option for a transitioning eater.
While at the store, Alicia also purchased one pound of fresh cheese tortellini, one can of spaghetti sauce, one pound of frozen organic mixed vegetables, and two packages of storage containers. With 15 minutes and some boiling water, she made eight individual servings of Cheese Tortellini with Tomato Sauce and Organic Mixed Vegetables that can be stored in the freezer for up to three months.
The price comparison of the name brand versus homemade version is below:
Name brand Cheese Ravioli in Tomato Sauce with Mixed Vegetables: On sale for $1.99
Homemade Version: cheese tortellini ($2.49); pasta sauce ($0.89); and frozen organic mixed vegetables ($1.00); for a total of $ 4.38
Yield: 8 meals
8 name brand meals cost approx $ 16.00 (with an average cost per meal of $1.99)
8 homemade versions cost less than $5.00 (with an average cost per meal of $0.55)
As exemplified by the aforementioned prices and details, the homemade version of an identical pre-packaged meal is healthier, more nutritious, and more cost-effective for families. Furthermore, since several families at the Early Learning Center have children of various ages, this demonstration also noted that these meals could be adapted for older children by doubling the portions and storing them in larger freezer and microwave safe containers. We also distributed handouts to go along with this demonstration, which included the above price comparisons, cooking instructions, storage information, and comparisons between other name brand infant and toddler foods versus more nutritious and more cost-effective homemade alternatives.
Families with preschool age children are more likely to have questions about picky eating, establishing healthy eating habits, and mealtime routines. Therefore, to address these topics, we shared information from the USDA Child Nutrition “My Plate” program that specifically addresses ways in which to engage preschool age children in selecting, preparing, and eating healthy foods. These suggestions include engaging children in games during shopping trips, encouraging children to pick out a healthy food item of their choice, such as a new fruit of vegetable to try, and having children participate during meal preparation. We also shared the list of helpful phrases to use during mealtimes provided by the USDA Child Nutrition program. These conversation starters for mealtimes are positive and non-punitive, and are the exact phrases that ELC staff members are trained to use to encourage healthy eating during mealtimes at school.
As a token of our appreciation for their time, input, and guidance, families received gift bags containing developmentally appropriate items to support positive eating habits and interactions.
Families with infants and young toddlers received information about making and storing fresh infant food and the economic and nutritional benefits of homemade versus store bought baby food. They also received information about introducing solid foods to infants and toddlers and food safety practices to prevent choking as new eaters explore new foods. Infants and toddlers received gift bags containing a Baby Signs for Mealtime board book, a “My Plate” dinnerware set based on the USDA recommended servings for infants and toddlers, a mesh infant fruit feeder set (infants only), and a copy of the book, Raising a Healthy, Happy Eater: A Parents Handbook: A Stage-by-Stage Guide to Setting Your Child on the Path to Adventurous Eating.
Families of preschool children also received a copy of the book, Raising a Healthy, Happy Eater: A Parents Handbook: A Stage-by-Stage Guide to Setting Your Child on the Path to Adventurous Eating. Additionally, their gift bags included a child-sized “My Plate” portioned meal plate, a reusable sport water bottle, and a child-sized utensil set.
All of the families in attendance were intrigued with our ideas for the Restorative Teachings ECE Initiative, gave input and guidance on grant project ideas (in the form of “visionary statements for a healthy Native child,”) and expressed gratitude for the developmentally specific child nutrition and meal planning information and gifts. We look forward to continuing to provide support and information to families that empowers them and encourages their connection to the NWIC Early Learning Center as a family resource.
Written by, Alicia Allard, Early Learning Center Director
Contributing writer, Nahrin Aziz-Parsons, Project Director
Spring is in full bloom here at the Northwest Indian College Early Leaning Center, and the AICF Restorative Teachings Early Childhood Education Initiative is beginning to take shape. We are fortunate to live in a part of the country where the seasonal changes are so dramatic and each transition brings such a feeling of change to our surroundings.
As we began our journey with this new project the spiny bare branches of winter began to bud and then bloom with white and pink cherry blossoms. While we worked to build our team and our vision of what this opportunity could mean for the children in the community, the birds began to sing us awake and the frogs croak us to sleep. This process of new growth and renewal happening around us inspires and mirrors our own.
Our Coordinating Team has met several times and continues to build on the strengths of NWIC’s ECE degree program, Sacred Little Ones and K’e’ ECE Initiatives, and the amazing staff and families at the NWIC Early Learning Center and Lummi community. We will continue to build on our many strong resources and assets as we work together to create sustainable place-based learning opportunities for our children.
With opportunities stemming from the Restorative Teachings ECE Initiative, our plan is to partner with NWIC’s Coast Salish Institute and Cooperative Extension to facilitate Professional Learning Communities about traditional plants and foods for ELC staff. We also plan to partner with NWIC’s Indigenous Service Learning program in order to transform the ELC’s playground into an outdoor classroom with a school garden featuring plants that are indigenous to this area.
Below are a few “before” pictures of our ELC playground. We look forward to juxtaposing these pictures with images of our playground “during” and “after” the transformation, illustrating the beautiful changes that we foresee happening with our ELC program and curriculum.
Alicia Allard (ELC Director) and Nahrin Aziz-Parsons (ECE Faculty)
Northwest Indian College has been invited to participate in a new American Indian College Fund Tribal College & University Early Childhood Education Initiative entitled, Restorative Teachings. Restorative Teachings focuses on strengthening systems of care and learning for Native children and families served by TCUs. This is a two year initiative building upon the success of the Wakanyeja (Sacred Little Ones) and K’é (Family Engagement) initiatives.
NWIC’s Early Childhood Education degree program will partner with the Cooperative Extension and Early Learning Center to work toward achieving the following program goals:
- Develop Native-based language and culture-based curriculum and assessments – particularly focused on increasing whole child health and wellness, and increasing opportunities for Native families to achieve economic security
- Increase teacher knowledge on family engagement, health disparities and economic security
- Develop and sustain family engagement, focusing on health and wellness, educational attainment and advocacy
- Implement ECE best practices aligned with early learning guidelines to ensure whole-child developmental outcomes, particularly focused on health and wellness and secure families
- Support systems and pathways from birth-to-career as a contributing factor toward racial equity, health and wellness, and economic security for Native families and communities
We are very grateful for and excited about this new endeavor, and would like to take this opportunity to thank those who helped to secure this grant.
On February 6, 2016, Bellingham Technical College hosted its annual “Focus on Children” Early Childhood Education conference. This professional development event draws early childhood educators from a five-county area to think collectively and reflect collaboratively about critical issues in early childhood education.
Several students in and graduates of Northwest Indian College’s Associate of Applied Science – Transfer in Early Childhood Education degree program attended this year’s conference. We had solid representation of NWIC ECE students from Lummi, Swinomish, and Suquamish in attendance.
Furthermore, NWIC ECE program graduate, Anna Somerville, and current students, Rachel Goodman and Christine Edwards, presented at the Focus on Children conference! They facilitated a breakout session entitled, “Handling Children’s Emotional Moments.” Both Anna and Christine are fluent Spanish-speakers, and Rachel is conversational in Spanish; therefore, their workshop was designed especially for Spanish-speaking early childhood educators.
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has recently featured the Sacred Little Ones Early Childhood Education Initiative on its website: http://wkkf.co/bwym
Shelley Macy, Sacred Little Ones Principal Investigator, is interviewed in the video. Also, Nahrin Aziz-Parsons, Sacred Little Ones Project Co-Director, and Anna Somerville, a recent graduate of the ECE degree program and current lead teacher at the Early Learning Center, are both quoted in the article. We invite you to read the article and view the video, and welcome you to share the link with your colleagues, friends, and associates!
“Sacred Little Ones” infuses Native language and culture into early childhood education”
Five years ago, the American Indian College Fund sought to invest in the future by launching the Wakanyeja “Sacred Little Ones” – Tribal College Readiness and Success by Third Grade initiative. Wakanyeja, pronounced WAH-KUH-AY-JA, is Lakota for “sacred little ones,” and is a targeted initiative at four tribal colleges to improve early childhood education for Native American children. The initiative seeks to build school readiness for Native children and provide a platform for success by third grade.
Sacred Little Ones has become more than a comprehensive approach to infusing language and culture into early childhood education for Native American children: it has transformed the way early education teachers at Native colleges and universities are trained. It has also generated new culturally rich curricula, fostered community and educational partnerships on and off reservations and provided training and events to help parents and communities advocate on behalf of their little learners.
“Each of the tribal colleges and universities has partnerships with either Head Start centers or tribal schools,” said Tarajean Yazzie-Mintz, senior program officer for the Wakanyeja Early Childhood Education Initiative of the American Indian College Fund. “What makes the training distinct is the incorporation of language and culture into the training, based on the needs of the particular communities they serve.”
read more at http://wkkf.co/bwym
Anna Somerville pictured with Sacred Little Ones Project Co-Directors Shelley Macy and Nahrin Aziz Parsons.
Two years ago I was a struggling single mother working twelve hour shifts at a child care as preschool teacher making $9.04 an hour. The quality of the center concerned me and so did my future there. I knew that I would never move up professionally. I wasn’t offered the necessary support or training. I didn’t make enough money to support my children nor did I have any time with them since I had to work almost sixty hours a week just to make ends meet.
I quit my job and started to attend Northwest Indian College in hopes of attaining my Early Childhood Education Degree. Yes, I wanted a better job with a living income and realistic hours but I also wanted to become a better teacher. I wanted to be the best. I wanted to be a hundred percent confident in myself and in my practice.
Although my motives for attending Northwest Indian College were professional, I stumbled upon a class that served me in multiple ways. Shelly Macy (the lead faculty of the Early Childhood Education department) taught a class for parents and Early Childhood Educators that was different from anything I had ever seen. A revolutionary parenting class that was more of a support group than a class that taught valid methods based on brain research aimed towards building connection (Hand and Hand Parenting). It wasn’t long before I became an expert in my own right and even offered a position at the campus Early Learning Center as a lead teacher prior to graduation.
As a cog in the mechanics of a much larger machine and vision, sometimes you doubt yourself (no matter how successful you are). Part of being a professional with high standards is the internal need to question the difference you are making. It wasn’t until I presented what Northwest Indian College is doing regarding Hand in Hand Parenting and the Ké’ Family Engagement Initiative that I realized just how important what I’m doing actually is.
To receive ovations from people in your field who are not only vastly more educated than you but have accomplishments you admire is an experience I will never forget. Being surrounded by the brightest minds of my field within an environment that supported equity over educational background, race, social economic status, etc., could only be described as wonderfully overwhelming.
Written by Anna Somerville 2015 AAS-T ECE Graduate & Lead Toddler Teacher, NWIC ELC
Twenty six and 1/2 years! That is a long time to be devoted to one’s work. Shelley started at Northwest Indian College in January, 1989 and has been there through July, 2015 without any intervening work breaks throughout that entire time.
There are many things that are remarkable about Shelley. One of them is her scurrying from one place to another on campus. Another is her constant friendly persona and yet another is her love of children and her dreams to make the world a safe and welcoming place for all children.
It is that love of children that has led her to be an important contributor to Washington State’s Early Leaning Department, to organize pathways for Head Start teachers to become credentialed and to provide many opportunities for educators at Lummi and Ferndale School District to create concrete relationships between them and their students of all ethnicities.
Tenacity, did tenacity get mentioned? Shelley fights for children, for fairness, and for connection. Her philosophy, based on Marcie Rendon’s quotation, “All of our children are all of our children,” is the basis for the hours devoted to curriculum development, assessment, and teaching.
Shelley has had a good run at it and now it’s time for a few moments of rest before she takes on the rest of the world.
Written by Gary L. Brandt
Northwest Indian College Faculty & Ké’ Family Engagement –
Family Play Evenings “Play Team” Member
Sacred Little Ones hosts Professional Learning Community and “Celebrating Early Childhood Education Students” dinner
On Friday May 15, 2015 the Northwest Indian College Early Childhood Education Leadership Team, in partnership with the Sacred Little Ones ECE Initiative, hosted our final Professional Learning Community of the academic year, and combined the event with our “Celebrating Early Childhood Education Students” dinner. Our annual spring celebration is designed to recognize the unique efforts and contributions that students have made to the ECE program at Northwest Indian College. We invited current and former Early Childhood Education students at Northwest Indian College sites to attend the dinner, as well as Professional Learning Community participants from Lummi Early Learning Programs, NWIC Early Learning Center, Lummi Teen Parent Child Development Center, and Eagleridge Elementary (in the Ferndale School District).
Lummi Elder Vera Adams led the opening prayer and reminded everyone of the sacredness of teaching and working with young children. The attendees enjoyed a lovely dinner of pasta and salad catered by the Silver Reef Casino, while Shelley Macy shared her passion for the importance of the collaborative process in early childhood professional development and honored all of our ECE students and PLC participants for their dedication to the early childhood field.
After dinner, the group went next door to the studio of Ramon Murillo, Native Artist and Faculty at NWIC, where they learned how to screen-print their own Sacred Little Ones t-shirts. This hands-on project was a great activity to wrap up a productive and dynamic academic year. Many thanks to Ramon and his team for their expert assistance in the printing studio and their patience with all of us novice printers. We will wear our NWIC Sacred Little Ones shirts with pride.
Early Learning Center Director
Northwest Indian College
I attended the PLC for Sacred Little Ones on May 15, 2015. It started as normal, sign in and get a name tag, we wait a moment letting everyone trickle in and hug and say our hellos. Vera Adams did a wonderful blessing on the yummy food that was provided for us. We also had Ramon and Eli teach us how to screen print our logo on some sample sheets at first than our t-shirts. That was a great experience learning the different steps in the process of screen printing. A bunch of laughs and smiles where exchanged. The fear of messing up but the courage to trying to apply that even pressure across the test fabric. The doodles we were doing while we waited our turn just a time to relax and enjoy everyone’s presents of just being there. We ended the night with cleaning up together and making sure we had everything back the way it was. We also finished up with the final evaluation sheet. It was an awesome evening and I had an amazing time!
Lummi Tribal Member and Head Start Teacher Assistant
Written by: Michelle Wilson
Get the kids to bed! Research says 8 to 10 hours a night! Is that why we had a meltdown at the grocery store today? Is the baby going to sleep tonight? How on earth am I going to function at work? Did I buy diapers? Are we feeding our kids enough vegetables? Did we order the middle school yearbook? Why oh why can’t I have more that 2 cups of coffee a day…is that really spit up on my shirt? HOW LONG AS THAT BEEN THERE!?
The life of a parent, there is so much to keep up with that it is easy to forget to slow down and enjoy the ride. I have to take a moment and remind myself that they are only going to be this small once. Some day my boys are going to be grown and start families of their own. The days of baby cuddles will be remembered only in my heart. The days of waking up early on the weekends for youth league soccer will be replaced with a phone call from college. Take time to slow down and cherish all of the firsts because before you know it they will be nothing but sweet memories.
This is what the Sacred Little Ones program has taught me. A beautiful reminder of what is truly important in life. Our children. Our family. The bills and the chores can wait. Trust me they are not going anywhere. Take the time to make bath time fun or listen to the latest happening in middle school. That is what really matters. Be present for your children. Show them. Teach them. Love them.
Our trip to the Great Wolf Lodge gave our family the opportunity to do that. The Sacred Little Ones program took care of the logistics and funded the whole trip. There were literally no worries! That was the greatest gift of all. For one weekend the stress of daily life melted away and we were free to just have fun and enjoy each other! Laptops and email were replaced with slushees and smiles! There are no words that can express how grateful I am for the gift of carefree family time. We got to reconnect with one another. Mother and child. Father and child. Husband and wife.
Time will march on and the complications of daily life will come creeping back but every time I trip over the fuzzy wolf ears I am going to stop, smile and remember. Take the time to play. Take the time to laugh. Take the time to listen. Take time to love. Be a family.
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has identified the Sacred Little Ones Early Childhood Education Initiative as an exemplary funded program.
They are in the process of producing a film about racial equity in education, featuring the Sacred Little Ones project and Northwest Indian College’s very own Shelley Macy, Sacred Little Ones Principal Investigator and Project Co-Director.
By Christine Edwards, Toddler Teacher
During my trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico, I did a lot of things for the first time. I went on my first plane ride, rode on tramway for the first time, and attended my first conference. This experience was the best in a lifetime. I have never met so many young, powerful Native Americans. I felt very important… They way that people talked to me and looked at me… They made me feel like I was somebody. I made a lot of great friends!
My brain was filled with so much knowledge about the Ké Family Engagement Initiative and how everyone involved with the grant needs to work on and meet goals. Not only did I get to hear what my tribe / TCU was doing, but I also got to see what three other tribes / TCU’s got do with their grant. I am so grateful for the people who I have met along the way.
At the Education for Parents of Indian Children with Special Needs (EPICS) conference, I attended a workshop where I made my first basket. It took a lot of patience but at the end I was happy with my finished project. Native tradition is that you give your first creation away to someone who has great meaning in your life. I presented the basket to one of my teachers, Nahrin, who has affected my school life and personal life. I am glad with the gifting decision that I made. And I presented a workshop, for the first time, at the conference with my teacher, Shelley. It was a real eye opener. During our presentation, we shared the message that you are a good parent, even when you do not feel like it. And that is something I need to learn to accept.
Being a young, tribal mother, and being able to go on this trip opened my eyes to the perspective that I am not alone. There are people who are my age, going to school, having children, and letting their children know that it IS possible to go to college. I am letting my children know not only can you do all of this, but you can be a parent, student, and have a full-time job. My children are my inspiration to get up in the morning. Seeing their faces with a big smile makes all of this worth it. I am so glad that I have my children and giving them the life that I never had.
Things are moving fast at the Northwest Indian College and the Lummi community. The last 3 ½ years of collaboration and planning on behalf of the Sacred Little Ones project leadership and partners has created many exciting new opportunities for families and children in the Lummi community. The Wakanyeja “Sacred Little Ones” Early Childhood Education Initiative, from the American Indian College Fund, has supported the incubation of these projects and collaborations, and allowed us to build a foundation that will support the continuation of these amazing partnerships.
The Early Learning Center at the Northwest Indian College has made great strides in our overall quality and has enrolled in the Washington State Department of Early Learning’s Early Achievers program. Early Achievers is a quality rating and improvement system for state licensed child care programs that is providing support, resources, and guidance for Early Learning Center management and staff as we work to provide an environment where young children and families will thrive. The support we receive from Sacred Little Ones and the Ké’ Family Engagement grants will allow us to meet these quality goals.
Furthermore, Sacred Little Ones is helping to enrich the curricula used at all of our partner early learning programs. Every Professional Learning Community participant has received an Identity Safety Literacy Kit and a classroom enhancement stipend, to ensure that teachers are using instructional materials that foster place-based education and create culturally responsive learning environments.
The Sacred Little Ones and Ké’ leadership teams have also created new connections between the numerous early learning and family support programs in the Lummi community. The Ey’ Snat Family Fun events were previously limited to families with children enrolled in the Lummi Head Start and Early Head Start programs. The Ké’ Family Engagement team has worked to bridge the gaps between families served by these programs and the NWIC Early Learning Center, Lummi Childcare and the Teen Parent Child Development Center. Recent events have included a traditional Lummi salmon BBQ, Coast Salish art lessons, drum making, and dancing. By welcoming families from the numerous early learning programs, and pairing health and wellness information and resources with Lummi cultural activities, the participation in these events has skyrocketed. We look forward to many more of these wonderful family centered events as we continue to strengthen the web of early childhood and family support programs.
Written by Alicia Allard, Early Learning Center Director | March 2015
Story originally published at http://www.collegefund.org/blog/?p=1857
Northwest Indian College, Ké’ Family Engagement Blog February 2015
Our first Family Engagement activity was an Ey’ Snat Family Fun Night in September held in conjunction with Sacred Little Ones partner site Lummi Head Start. We wanted families to get to experience a salmon barbeque with salmon cooked in the traditional way.
Lummi fisher, Dana Wilson, had families skewer chunks of salmon on long ironwood sticks then he propped the sticks near the fire to cook. The barbeque took place on a warm fall evening, on the beach, where children enjoyed playing near the water, elders visited, families ate, and Head Start and NWIC staff enjoyed the great turn-out.
The October Ey’ Snat was an Art Event! We began with a meal at the Head Start then Bill Jefferson, Lummi artist, shared some of his knowledge about traditional Coast Salish art forms. Families and young children got to do painting with those art forms, and take their artwork home. They were so pleased.
November’s event was a Family Play Evening, where parents and family members brought their young ones to share a meal and play and play and play. Additional adults came without their children to be members of the “Play Team” who could add playfulness and extra resource to this family time. When half the parents went to the building next door for a Support Group, the Play Team and other half of the parents stayed out to play. The second half of parents also got their support group as well. There was much activity and while there were no physical take-homes, there were smiles and joy and a sense of peace as families departed. Parents and children connecting through play made children’s eyes shine. Participating in the brief but safe parents’ support group brought out the smiles on family members’ relaxed faces as well.
The December Ey’ Snat Family Fun Night in conjunction with our partner, Lummi Head Start, was a wonderful success, though in unexpected ways. That is, we did not expect the gathering to draw 125 people, as we had planned for 60… Our invitation “went viral,” and we were glad it did! We loved having so many families of young children there, and we received lots of support from the Silver Reef Hotel Casino & Spa to accommodate everyone. The catering department opened a second banquet room, added tables to the area between the two rooms, and served delicious food. The Silver Reef did a fabulous job of keeping the food coming, finding room for everyone, and treating us all so well.
Children and families ate and made several engaging and fun “make-and-take” activities. Due to unforeseen but surmountable challenges, our activities were more Christmas crafts and less traditional crafts than originally planned. However, Lummi traditional values of generosity, working together toward a common goal, valuing family, and sharing and caring were fully engaged. And believe us when we say, that making scarves with a Seahawks applique was a hit of tremendous proportions for this wonderful occasion!
In January, we held our second Family Play evening, with more Play Team members than before. The parents’ support groups were eagerly attended in the middle of the event, and we initiated a Play Team members’ support group (for the adults and teens who came without children to support the children and families) after the families went home. It was lovely to hear each person’s delight with the evening and their part in it.
Enthusiasm was high for the next one, which took place February 6th. With over 40 participants, it was our biggest turnout yet!
The Tse’lala Parent Advocacy Group continues to meet on a weekly basis, and family engagement/community empowerment is in full swing at Lummi. These parents are committed to strengths-based, asset-oriented approaches to supporting their children’s education and educators. They introduced themselves to the tribal council in December, and at that time, the Tribal Chairman assigned two council members who are themselves parents, to attend the Tse’lala group as part of their community participation as Council members.
Being able to interact with and involve parents more fully has been a big and joyful job! We look forward to our next Ey’ Snat Family Fun Night with Head Start on Thursday, February 12. This time we will be at the Wex Liem Community Building with a variety of traditional crafts and some songs and dances for the young ones and their families.
Ruth Elgin (left) pictured with Nahrin Aziz Parsons (right), ECE Faculty and Sacred Little Ones Co-Director at Northwest Indian College.
In 2012, the Wakanyeja “Sacred Little Ones” Early Childhood Education Initiative at the American Indian College Fund partnered with the Brazelton Tribal Touchpoints Initiative at the Brazelton Touchpoints Center® in Boston, Massachusetts.
As part of the Brazelton Tribal Touchpoints Initiative, representatives from all four tribal college teams participating in the Wakanyeja “Sacred Little Ones” Early Childhood Education Initiative have had the opportunity to attend the Brazelton Tribal Touchpoints Institute, specifically tailored for the Wakanyeja grantees.
Ruth Elgin, a graduate of Northwest Indian College’s Associate of Applied Science Transfer in Early Childhood Education Degree Program, was recently accepted to the Brazelton Touchpoints Leadership Institute.*
Alicia Allard, Director of Northwest Indian College’s Early Learning Center, recently had the opportunity to interview Ruth about her experience with Brazelton thus far, and below is a transcript of that conversation.
- What did mean for you as an early childhood professional to be chosen for the Brazelton project?
When I filled out the application and submitted my request, I had received an e-mail from them and was pretty excited when I got a response from them letting me know that I had been accepted into their program.
- What do you hope to learn through this process?
What I hope to learn from this process are the steps of what it takes to be a leader in the community and how to be culturally sensitive with the process of making sure that my project plan will continue and be a valuable resource for other Early Childhood Educators.
- What is your chosen project and what do you hope to learn from the process?
My chosen project is to: Encourage more male involvement and increasing the participation of fathers and male role models with infants and toddlers in activities in the Teen Parent Child Development Center, the home and in the community.
- What is it like to meet and work alongside other tribal ECE professionals from around the country?
It has been with great pleasure meeting each and everyone for the first time when I went to the institute in Boston the beginning week in October for my first conference. We all got to know each other on a personal level and spent the evenings together exploring Boston.
- What have you learned about your ability to create positive change in your community?
What I’ve learned from my ability to create a positive change in the community that I live in, is getting out and connecting with other members of the community and getting their input and feedback of what it takes to make a positive change.
- How has the Brazelton program inspired you to be a leader and a mentor for other ECE professionals?
By taking a leap out of my comfort zone and learning to try something new for the program that you work for in your community.
* Johanna Phair, Program Coordinator at Northwest Indian College’s Early Learning Center, was also accepted to the Brazelton Touchpoints Leadership Institute, served as a Leadership Associate, and attended a weeklong leadership institute at Brazelton Touchpoints Center for Indigenous leadership in October 2013. Her project centered on integrating Lummi language into early childhood education classrooms.
- What did mean for you as an early childhood professional to be chosen for the Brazelton project?
At the November Sacred Little One’s Professional Learning Community, we had the unique opportunity to meet for a print-making workshop with Ramon Murillo, Art Instructor at Northwest Indian College. This experience provided a space for teachers of Lummi children across systems to hear about the work of this local Native artist. It was a privilege to be provided with the opportunity to think about how we could represent our identities and what is important to us as people and teachers dedicated to building welcoming and inclusive experiences and learning environments. This time together allowed for lots of sharing about ourselves, laughter, and the challenge of engaging in a creative process that visually represents what matters to us, specifically about Sacred Little Ones. It was so fun to talk about our pieces, share materials, and learn more about each other. Through this focused time created by Sacred Little Ones, I learned anew that our time together, and the deepening connections, creates a sense of “togetherness” in the important work of loving and teaching all our children.
Early Childhood Coordinator
Ferndale School District
On October 19th, 2014 Alicia Allard, Director of NWIC Early Learning Center, traveled to Barrow, Alaska to visit Iḷisaġvik College on behalf of the NWIC Sacred Little Ones team. Alicia was honored to accompany Dr. Tarajean Yazzie-Mintz, Program Officer for the Wakanyeja Sacred Little Ones Initiative; and Dr. Danielle Lansing, Project Director and ECE Coordinator at the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute. The group was there for the annual site visit to Iḷisaġvik College’s Sacred Little Ones project, which included visits to the Early Childhood Education degree program, and the college’s Inupiaq Language Nest, Uqautchim Ugula; in addition to meeting with Jana Harcharek, Coordinator of the North Slope Borough School District’s Bilingual and Multicultural Department.
Jana Harcharek shared the process of developing the community led Inupiaq Education Initiative; which began in 2001 and was used to develop the Inupiaq Learning Framework used by the North Slope Borough School District. She also shared the Inupiaq language and cultural education materials developed for the K-12 grade levels, which were professionally printed and beautifully done with local art and culturally relevant topics and stories from the community. It was inspiring to see and learn about the hard work, collaboration and relationship building that went into the development of the Learning Framework and the educational materials.
The SLO team also visited Iḷisaġvik College’s Uqautchim Ugula Inupiaq Language Nest. We enjoyed learning about the history and goals of the nest and observing the culturally rich early childhood learning environment. We later had lunch at the Iḷisaġvik cafeteria with Dean of Instruction, Birgit Meany, and several members of Iḷisaġvik College faculty. We enjoyed learning about the unique challenges of operating an accredited Tribal college at the top of the world, and the innovative ways Iḷisaġvik instructors incorporate Inupiat cultural knowledge and understanding of local natural sciences into their academic programs. Alicia, an avid Geocacher, was pleased to discover the northernmost geocache in the United States hidden in a Bowhead whale skull on campus.
Our hosts were gracious and accommodating and made our stay warm and enjoyable. A big Lummi Hy’shqe to everyone who shared their time and stories with us!
Alicia Allard [Early Learning Center Director, Northwest Indian College]
Thank you for transporting our precious cargo
In June, a group of Lummi parents honored the bus drivers from Ferndale School District and Lummi Nation School with a specially prepared and served luncheon.
These parents wanted to let bus drivers know that they understand their job is both important and challenging. They thanked them for transporting their most precious cargo to and from school every day.
Parents understand that bus drivers set the tone each day. They are often the first school district personnel to greet a child in the morning and the last to see him or her off at the end of the day.
These parents understand that sitting in the driver’s seat is mentally demanding. Transporting more than a classroom full of unique personalities, a bus driver needs to be aware at all time what is going on inside the bus, as well as outside it. The driver has to be ready for any emergency. They are always setting an example for children.
Through their generous end-of-the-year luncheon, Lummi parents said thank you to the men and women who drive our buses. Working together makes everything work better.
I am so thankful to the Sacred Little Ones Grant and Heather Jefferson for the opportunity to use the Lummi Language Literacy Kit with my students over the last 4 weeks.
This summer, I had the privilege of teaching Jump Start preschool at Eagleridge Elementary. During that time Heather Jefferson graciously introduced the class to the language kit. It was evident from the beginning that the kit was very engaging, well thought out, and developmentally appropriate for 3 to 6+ year old students. It was so exciting to see a number of my Native American students come alive when Heather introduced items in the kit such as Bigfoot, Native American books, and Lummi vocabulary. There was an immediate connection to students that were somewhat overwhelmed with starting preschool, and it was clear that the items from the language kit were familiar and comforting to the students.
As the preschool program continued, I had the chance to explore the wide range of activities that the kit provided. I found the audio CD to be the most useful item and hearing an authentic Lummi speaker teach the language allowed for the students to learn vocabulary in its traditional form. The students were drawn to the CD tracks that included “Bigfoot Body Parts”, “Animal Names”, “The Legend of Bear and Crow”, and the adaptation of “Baby Beluga”. The addition of both Native American and contemporary books combined with tactile items (i.e. stuffed Bigfoot character) created a very well-rounded and “easy to use” kit.
I want to again express my deep appreciation to the Sacred Little Ones Grant, Heather Jefferson, and any other individuals that helped and allowed for the creation of the Lummi Language Literacy Kit. I am so happy to say that my students completed the Jump Start preschool program with an exposure to Lummi legends and vocabulary, and the lessons were some the most enjoyable parts of the whole preschool experience. I am excited to continue to learn more about the Lummi culture and hope to be able to share this kit with future students to come.
With sincere thanks,
Kindergarten and Jump Start Teacher
Written by Alicia Allard, Director of Northwest Indian College’s Early Learning Center
On August 12th-14th 2014 staff and administrators from Sacred Little Ones supported program at Lummi Childcare, Lummi Head Start and the Northwest Indian College Early Learning Center attended the 2014 Tribal Early Care and Education Conference hosted by the Washington State Department of Early Learning. The conference was held at the beautiful Great Wolf Lodge on Chehalis Tribal land in Grand Mound, Washington and was attended by numerous tribal early childhood programs. We were proud to have a large group of attendees representing the Lummi Nation’s early childhood programs.
The predominant themes of this year’s conference were a renewed focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) in early childhood education; and how STEAM focused learning supports traditional knowledge and understanding of the natural world. We were honored to welcome Dr. Megan Bang, CHiXapkaid (Dr. Michael Pavel), and Mitch Factor as Keynote speakers, and Dr. Bette Hyde from the Department of Early Learning as an esteemed guest. Dr. Hyde has been an amazing advocate for Tribal early childhood programs in Washington State, and has demonstrated a strong commitment to learning from Tribal programs.
Attendees from Lummi Nation programs enjoyed breakout sessions on USDA meal planning and incorporating traditional foods; disaster preparedness and planning for emergencies on tribal lands; supporting professional development; incorporating outdoor activities into lesson planning; and engaging with families. Attendees shared their positive experiences at the conference during our group dinner on the second night. Staff shared their renewed interest in teambuilding; excitement for newly learned teaching techniques; and a greater awareness of the importance of male involvement in early childhood. We all came away with a renewed passion for our work with children and families, and each other.
Northwest Indian College is the recipient of $110,000 for the Ké’ Early Childhood Initiative: Strengthening Systems of Shared Responsibility among Native Families, Schools, and Communities
The American Indian College Fund, Northwest Indian College, and the Lummi Community partners and families will engage in collaboration to strengthen the central role families play in early learning opportunities. We will learn not only how to engage and sustain authentic partnerships with families, but also what the innovative activities are which heighten families’ opportunities to meaningfully shape their child’s/children’s early learning outcomes, in preparation for school readiness and success in life. It is a collective goal to develop systemic change that can be shared with other Native communities, centers, teachers, leaders, and families across the nation.
The Ké’ Family Engagement Initiative seeks to strengthen systems of shared responsibility and leadership among Native families, schools and communities. The work conducted in collaboration with families will advance our successes within Native communities, and the knowledge gained will inform the field of family engagement, early childhood education, and preparation of teachers serving Native communities.
Tribal colleges and universities are uniquely positioned to support efforts of social and cultural transformation focused on innovative practices, ensuring family engagement is supported by the richness of Native cultures, languages, and values. When the work of family engagement is centered on families, and when families take center stage defining the focal work and future opportunities to reach educational equity, Native children flourish in a diversity of learning environments.
Northwest Indian College, as one of the selected TCU grantees, represents a diversity of programmatic commitments. We demonstrated initial capacity and greatest potential to develop and sustain family engagement programming that may reach beyond the funding year. We are very grateful for and excited about this new endeavor, and would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the Lummi parents / families, Northwest Indian College faculty / staff, and community partners, who helped to secure this grant.
– Written by Heather Jefferson
The Menominee people were the gracious hosts of the Sacred Little Ones Annual Convening, which took place in June 2014. When we arrived, we were greeted by Dr. Tarajean Yazzie-Mintz, Sacred Little Ones Program Officer at the American Indian College Fund. It was nice to see the peoples of the land history recorded on a special channel in our hotel room. The next morning, a few took advantage of a morning walk and we were able to get acquainted with one another.
Each day began early and ended after dinner, and all were encouraged “to do just one more thing,” which all were happy to do because of the generous spirit of everyone present. We exchanged experiences, insights, and ideas. Every site has its own unique, rich culture and history. Our hosts added to the Convening an adventure into their beautiful forest and gave us a tour of the tribal college as well as a fun bus tour of their tribal community, which included their new museum.
We learned a lot about one another and ourselves. This exchange helps us by validating our work and inspiring us to continue to work hard on behalf of our communities.
– Written by Shelley Macy and Nahrin Aziz Parsons
Our 2014 ECE graduates, Erin Henry, Alexis Ballew, Ruth Elgin, and Kelsie Lawrence are pictured with Shelley Macy, Lead ECE Faculty and Sacred Little Ones Principal Investigator (center). All four of our ECE graduates work in tribal early learning programs, and three of the four are at Lummi.
On Friday, June 20, 2014, Northwest Indian College celebrated its commencement at the beautiful Wexliem Community Building. The Class of 2014 consisted of 115 students earning either their two-year or four-year degrees, or their General Education Diploma.
Dr. Dakotah Lane, a Lummi tribal member, was our keynote speaker. He shared his story about graduating from the University of Washington, joining the Peace Corps, and attending medical school at Weill-Cornell Medical College. Dr. Lane also shared with our graduates his plans to return to his reservation to work as a physician at the Indian Health Services clinic, upon completion of his residency.
Of the 115 students who graduated this year, four earned their Associate of Applied Science Transfer Degree in Early Childhood Education (AAS-T ECE). The number of students graduating with their AAS-T ECE degree is indeed growing: This is the highest number of ECE graduates at any one time ever in the history of Northwest Indian College!
We congratulate our graduating class of 2014. It was a monumental time for our students, and on behalf of Northwest Indian College and the AAS-T ECE Degree Program, we commend them on their academic achievements and professional success!
– Written by Alicia Allard, Early Learning Center Director, Northwest Indian College
Northwest Indian College has a strong history of educating and supporting the next generation of early childhood professionals. Our early childhood program reflects the mission of Northwest Indian College to promote indigenous self-determination and knowledge by preparing students to carry on the tradition of providing quality early childhood education for tribal programs.
We also recognize the immense sacrifices each of our students make every day to pursue their education while also working and supporting their own families.
On April 25th, 2014, we came together to honor these students and their families for their hard work and dedication to their education and the families in their community. We invited all current and former Early Childhood Education students to join us for dinner along with their families.
Per student request, we had pizza, salad, and dessert catered by the Silver Reef Casino. Each student who attended also received a gift card for Fred Meyer and a custom canvas tote bag with our “Sacred Little Ones” logo printed on it.
Sacred Little Ones Principal Investigator / Co-Project Director Shelley Macy acted as our Mistress of Ceremonies, and we were honored to welcome Lummi tribal member and long-time ECE advocate Heather Jefferson as our guest speaker. Heather shared a touching poem about the honor of teaching the next generation of tribal members and the responsibility that comes with the work.
In recognition of her many years of support for Lummi early childhood programs and her role as part of the Sacred Little Ones Coordinating Team, we presented Heather with an orca broach carved from yellow cedar by a Lummi carver.
We were pleased to have six ECE students and five members from Northwest Indian College’s Space Center Team (including the 2013-2014 Student Executive Board President), NWIC faculty and staff, and many family members, for a total of 30 attendees. We ended the evening with a heart-felt Hy’shqe to all the attendees and we look forward to next year’s event.
There are pictures: http://sacredlittleones-nwic.org/news/early-childhood-education-students
Ashia Smock, founding co-director for the Sacred Little Ones Project at NWIC has accepted a position at Lummi Behavioral Health, where she will have the opportunity to work directly with children and teachers at the Lummi Early Learning Programs as a Social Worker. Ashia interned at Behavioral Health for six months as she completed her MSW from the University of Washington, and they just couldn’t let her go. Though we will miss her in the day-to-day operations of the Sacred Little Ones project and at the ELC, we are excited for her and for this opportunity to work more closely with Behavioral Health within Head Start. Ashia is also finishing up her training to become a certified Hand In Hand “Parenting by Connection” instructor. She will continue to work with the Sacred Little Ones goals of helping families and teachers handle children’s emotional moments and improving children’s social and emotional skills and development.
Nahrin Aziz Parsons, M.Ed., ECE Faculty, our new Project Co-Director, is now coordinating the day-to-day operations of the Sacred Little Ones Project along with Shelley Macy, PI. NWIC has hired Alicia Allard as director of the Early Learning Center. We are so fortunate to have both Nahrin and Alicia as part of this Project to improve opportunities and experiences for children, families, teachers, and ECE program students.
By Shelley Macy, NWIC Early Childhood Education Director
On June 7, Lummi elders and community leaders, along with the Northwest Indian College Early Childhood Wakanyeja Sacred Little Ones (WSLO) program, welcomed WSLO teams from the College of the Menominee Nation (CMN-Wisconsin), Ilisagvik College (IC-Alaska), and Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI-New Mexico) to the annual WSLO convening at the Silver Reef Casino.
All four colleges receive support funds from the American Indian College Fund’s “Wakanyeja ‘Sacred Little Ones’ –Tribal College Readiness and Success by Third Grade Initiative.” The Wakanyeja project is generously funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The purpose of the project is to create innovative, tribally-based activities and solutions that improve early childhood education and empower families and communities to create better education for their children.
We were honored to have Mary Helen Cagey and her family offer a welcome song and blessing. Chief Bill James and Lummi leaders Juanita Jefferson and Al Scott Johnnie gifted all assembled with words of encouragement and appreciation for their work on behalf of young children.
During the two days of the convening, the NWIC team showed off partner sites to the guests: NWIC Early Learning Center, Lummi Head Start, Lummi Nation School kindergartens, and Eagleridge Elementary kindergartens.
The other participating colleges also offered a workshop. CMN’s workshop focused on literacy and adapting familiar tales into teacher-made books that include a several words of their tribal language (The Gingerbread Man became Frybread Man, for example).
IC’s workshop focused on the various ways they are developing their Inupiat preschool language immersion program and creating Inupiat books, posters of language sounds, and using their language with the children in care.
SIPI gave us a taste of their PhotoVoice project involving parents in photographing activities, locations and people that show what they value in their daily lives as Native people, using that to guide cultural curriculum development.
Our NWIC team included myself (Shelley Macy, NWIC Early Childhood Education Director), Ashia Smock (NWIC Early Learning Center manager), Joy Miller (Head Start Education Manager, Jason Small (Lummi Nation School Curriculum Director), Julie Mauermann (Ferndale ECE Coordinator), Sunshine Bob (Lummi language teacher and parent), and Mischa Burnett (incoming Eagleridge Principal). Team members participated in full or in part in the convening sessions.
We were also honored to have Head Start and Early Head Start staff attended the Friday workshop with SIPI.
The visiting teams appreciated hearing from NWIC’s WSLO Coordinating Team Member Bernie Thomas (Lummi Education Director) when they visited the Head Start buildings, old and new, and getting to meet Sharon Kinley and Lexie Tom, two other Coordinating Team Members, at Friday’s dinner.
Sacred Little One is at the midpoint of its four-year funding.
Article originally posted on July 15, 2013 – 9:04am
Nestled between the Lummi Bay and Bellingham Bay in Northwest Washington State, four tribal college early childhood education programs brought their knowledge together among the thicket of tradition and scenery on the Lummi Indian reservation. The Wakanyeja Early Childhood Education Initiative tribal college grantees of Northwest Indian College, College of Menominee Nation, Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI) and Ilisagvik College gathered last week for their annual Sacred Little Ones convening on the Lummi reservation.
The grantees of this Kellogg-funded initiative joined up to share their experiences at their tribal college sites and expand upon each other’s emergent specialized knowledge and give a report on how their initiatives are impacting not only the young learners, but also the programs, communities and the tribal college students studying alongside in the program. This break-through initiative on how we teach young learners incorporates the cultural aspects of learning while preparing the needs of the students to be more successful in the classroom. The TCU grantees presented their expertise and conveyed their best practices they have identified in now their third year participating in the program.
Incorporating their curricula to their early learning centers, the team from the College of Menominee Nation presented the 17 original picture storybooks created by the student teachers in one of their courses. These books are comprised of stories about the Menominee, the seasons, animals and other lessons for young children. Then they had the other three groups create their own books during the break-out session. Here are their descriptions of the activity they participated in:
Northwest Indian College
“We did an activity where we choose a Lummi legend, The Crow and the Bear story. The moral of the legend is to not be a copy cat because you might get hurt. Instead of following the assignment (and being a copy cat) to use the Gingerbread Man framework, we did a Lummi legend. We worked together to illustrate the legend for Lummi children.” Sunshine Bob and the Sacred Little Ones team will be submitting their storybook to the Lummi culture commission for approval and feedback before they are distributed for use in early learning centers serving Lummi children and families.
Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute
The SIPI team discussed the complexities of integrating tribal language into literary text. The team would like to respect local tribal values regarding sharing language in text. The SIPI team would like to develop books with the collaboration of local community.
During the Saturday session the CMN team presented a workshop on making storybooks that we can use with our young children in our Learning Environment. It was an abbreviated hands-on practice to give an overview of the process. The team feels it is easier to go back home and produce its own. The team realized that this doable and it has the resources and the basic skills. to produce fun, culturally relevant classroom material.
Tarajean Yazzie-Mintz, the Program Officer for the Kellogg-funded initiative from the American Indian College Fund describes the TCU programs and their best practices as exemplary models “driving the early childhood conversation from the Native [American] lens.”
For their participation in the activity, some freshly-harvested maple syrup from the Menominee Nation was presented to each cohort by the College of Menominee Nation.
Courtesy American Indian College Fund, posted on June 13, 2013
Alisha Sellars, Shuswap/Secwepemc from British Columbia, is 21 years old, a mother of a 2-year-old son, works full time, and is a full-time Northwest Indian College (NWIC) student working toward becoming an elementary or early-education teacher.
“I’m hoping to teach in Native communities because, growing up, I only saw one Native teacher,” Sellars said. “I think it’s important for Native teachers to teach Native children because they share a sense of culture and have an extra connection to the kids and I think that extra connection helps the kids.”
Sellars’ goal to teach in Native communities has been fueled in large part by her work at NWIC’s Early Learning Center (ELC), a daycare and school on the college’s main campus on the Lummi Reservation.
Since Sellars started at NWIC, her goal of becoming a teacher has started to become a reality. She started working part time at the college’s Early Learning Center in April 2012 and in January 2013, was hired to work full time at the center.
Sellars, who grew up in part in Canada and on the Lummi Reservation, said she has always known she wanted to attend college. Her parents, who are college graduates, always encouraged her to pursue higher education.
“I knew I had to go to school to better myself and for my family,” Sellars said. “And I knew I needed to go for my son – to give him a better life through education.”
Still, even with all of her ambition, Sellars’ first stab at college didn’t feel right to her. She attended a non-Tribal college, and said she just felt like a number.
“I just didn’t feel like I fit in very well,” Sellars said. “After finishing the quarter there, I decided to come to NWIC and I knew instantly that this was where I was supposed to be. I felt like I belonged. I don’t feel like a number here.”
During Sellars’ first two quarters at NWIC, she needed to bring her son to class, and she said her instructors were very understanding and accepting of both of them.
“I feel like I have made a lot of family at NWIC,” Sellars said.
She said one instructor, Alex Prue, even felt like a grandpa to her.
Through her work at the ELC, Alisha became involved with the Sacred Little Ones Project, which she said has changed her perspective on early learning.
“I love the Sacred Little Ones Project,” Sellars said. “Every time I go to a Sacred Little Ones gathering, it reminds me of why I want to pursue education.”
The Sacred Little Ones Project, known also as Wakanyeja “Sacred Little Ones” Early Childhood Development Initiative, is supported by a $5 million grant award by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to the American Indian College Fund to establish four early childhood development centers located at tribal colleges and universities and serving Native children. NWIC is one of those locations.
The purpose of the project is to improve young Native students’ skill acquisition; prepare them for grades K-12 and post-secondary education; improve the quality of early childhood teachers in Native communities through partnership opportunities with post-secondary teacher training programs at the tribal colleges; bridge early childhood and K-3 education; integrate Native language and culture into early childhood curriculum; and empower Native families and communities as change agents in education for their children.
“The project has opened so many doors,” Sellars said. “I’ve met a lot of amazing people through the project that I could see myself working with in the future. They are all inspirations for me to keep working hard toward my goals.”
Sellars is currently working toward her direct transfer associate degree at NWIC. After NWIC, she plans to continue her education and “do whatever it takes to become a teacher.”
Sharing Stories through Imagery: Pathways to Improving Early Childhood Education in Native Communities
Four tribal colleges who are grantees in the Kellogg Wakanyeja “Sacred Little Ones” Early Childhood Education Initiative met last week in Boulder, Colorado.
The teams came from across North America, including Ilisagvik College, Barrow, Alaska; College of Menominee Nation (CMN), Keshena, Wisconsin, Northwest Indian College (NWIC), Bellingham, Washington; and Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI), Albuquerque, New, Mexico. Team members shared and reflected on the first year of accomplishments establishing early childhood initiatives. In addition, the meeting provided new opportunities for team learning and inquiry. This year’s theme focused the teams on ways to share project stories, drawing upon a systematic collection of information to demonstrate impact.
Many participants serve in various roles in their jobs, including program specialists, language and culture specialists, teaching professionals, parents, artists, and scholars. They are adept at pressing data and collaborating to improve the life, education, and opportunities for Native children.
Attendees participated in a video workshop and learned skills for audio, photo, video, and other visual media storytelling. This introduction into advanced multimedia tools combined with learning how others are using the technology should produce truly impactful integration of photo and video in the participants’ data collection and project sharing across a diverse audience beyond each tribal college.
They also spent a morning on Colorado trails with guided tours to hone their senses, connect them to their surroundings, and prepare them for reflection on their goals, visions, and dreams for themselves and their children.
The participants collaborated in a print-making workshop with renowned Navajo artist, Melanie A. Yazzie, associate professor of art at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The screen prints of forced ink on paper brought forth stories of inspiration and life lessons. The final prints will be compiled into nine portfolios and sent to traveling to museum exhibits around the world, including Dubai, Australia, New Zealand, tribal communities, the American Indian College Fund in Denver, and one set will be held in the permanent collection at CU Boulder for further study by CU students and local, regional, and national artists.
The cohort participants dispersed back across the continent to Alaska, Wisconsin, New Mexico and Washington to answer the questions generated during their time in Colorado. They will go back to continue collecting data and analyzing their findings so that they can disseminate lessons learned to other tribal colleges ultimately creating a culturally relevant process for addressing modern changes in early childhood education among Native communities.
See more of the prints created during the workshop
Article originally posted on September 22, 2011 – 2:41pm
“Sacred-Little-Ones” – grant
Northwest Indian College’s Early Childhood Education Program was selected as a recipient of the Wakanyeja “Sacred Little Ones” grant funded through the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and distributed by the American Indian College Fund. $800,000 has been awarded over a period of four years in order to make improvements to the ECE degree program at NWIC and at the NWIC Early Learning Center, Lummi Head Start, Lummi Nation School K-3rd grade and Ferndale Eagleridge Elementary, K-3rd grade. We are honored to receive and be a part of this project.
The Wakanyeja “Sacred Little Ones” early childhood education initiative is for and by the Lummi Community’s children and families. Four cohorts will be formed—children at the participating schools, their parents, and their teachers as well as Lummi campus students in the ECE degree program.
As part of the planning for the start of services in January, we invite all interested community members to be part of the discussions of what we do, how we do it, and what we want to learn to improve early education, and, indeed, all education for our children.
The goals of the project are to:
Goal 1: Improve cognitive skill acquisition, specifically, language and literacy (both Lummi language and English).
Goal 2: Improve social emotional health for young children, specifically by using the “ Parenting and Teaching by Connection” approach.
Goal 3: Improve early childhood teacher quality in the Lummi community through early childhood education teacher training at Northwest Indian College and through a peer support system for teachers.
Goal 4: Bridge early childhood and K-3 education for participants between NWIC Early Learning Center, Lummi Head Start and Lummi Nation School or Eagleridge Elementary.
Goal 5: Integrate Lummi language and culture into curriculum development and instruction in the NWIC ECE teacher preparation program, NWIC Early Learning Center, Lummi Head Start classrooms, and Kindergarten through grade three at Lummi Nation School, and Eagleridge Elementary.
Goal 6: Empower families and the Lummi Community to act as agents of change in education for our children.
Interested in some of these goals? If so, you can join us for one or more of the “Community Working Group” meetings this fall. Please consider being a part of deciding how this project will proceed–we want to hear from you. Being a part of what happens for young children is a surefire way to touch the next seven generations of this community for positive outcomes for children, families, and our future.
If there is a topic that is near and dear to your heart, and the meeting date and tie doesn’t work for you, we still want your input. Let one of us know, and we will set up a time to get together, email, or talk by phone to listen to your concerns, questions, and contributions.
Northwest Indian College administers a broad range of financial aid, scholarships, and work-study programs for students who can demonstrate financial need.
NWIC students are encouraged to engage and integrate into the life of the institution. Students are offered opportunities to participate in enrichment activities through Student Affairs, student government, and residence life.