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What can we learn from a flag?

If this is the flag of the Navajo nation and you are in Alex gatewood‘s at the Tséhootsooí Primary Learning Center in Window Rock, you can learn about climate change, the history and culture of the tribe, and the importance of trees, and you can learn how to put that knowledge to good use by outside the classroom.

He showed a photo of the flag, which includes the sacred Diné mountains, their lands, a Hogan, coal, a rainbow, oil, ponderosa pines, and the sun. Each has become a topic of discussion about the value of Diné and how some of them might change in the future in response to climate change.

“I was trying to teach kids to see these elements and start thinking about what they should be doing at their age and as they move up through elementary, middle and high school,” he said. declared. “I want to give students a mindset to start thinking about it so that as they get older they can be the solution to climate change.”

Gatewood, who is a member of the NAU’s Diné Institute for Navajo Nation Educators (DINÉ), was one of a few dozen educators who showcased their innovative indigenous-centric program at the fourth annual showcase and open house that was held on December 4 at the Flagstaff campus. .

The showcase, which brought together more than 100 educators who are part of DINÉ and the Indigenous Early Childhood Educators (IECE) Fellowship, offers educators the opportunity to discuss culturally relevant teaching in Indigenous communities. and celebrate all of their hard work and creativity in the classroom. .

“The showcase allows teachers to see the incredible work their colleagues have done, and it inspires them to think about how they can develop a curriculum that is both culturally relevant and academically rigorous,” said Angelina Castagno, DINÉ director and teacher of leadership and educational foundations. “Teachers are such important community leaders, but they are not always treated with the respect they and their profession deserve. DINÉ, IECE and all of our programs through the Institute for Native-Serving Educators seek to elevate the expertise of teachers and celebrate their efforts to tap into cultures, knowledge, histories and languages. native people to connect with students.

Launched in 2018, DINÉ is a Yale University-supported partnership between the NAU and Navajo Nation and neighboring schools. This is Yale’s first partnership serving rural communities or working with a tribal nation. DINÉ’s mission is to strengthen education in K-12 schools that serve Navajo students by engaging educators in long-term professional development seminars to increase content awareness, curriculum development , leadership skills and the ability to deliver cultural lessons. The IECE program was launched this year to provide a similar model of professional development for preschool teachers serving Indigenous students.

“Empowering teachers to be successful and integrate culture into classrooms helps improve the inequitable educational outcomes that Indigenous students face due to a history of colonization and assimilation,” Castagno said.

AAU President José Luis Cruz Rivera, who hosted the event attendees, also discussed the importance of decolonization in student education.

The President of the Navajo Nation, Jonathan Nez, addresses the DINÉ showcase.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez expressed gratitude to the NAU and the teachers at the Diné Institute for Navajo Nation Educators for incorporating the Navajo way of life into the classroom. Top Image: Alex Gatewood explains how he uses the Navajo Nation flag to teach students about climate change.

“The United States has a long history of colonizing and assimilating education in Indigenous communities, which has resulted in the inequitable outcomes we see today,” he said. “We have a responsibility to disrupt these models, and partnering with Indigenous educators and leaders to develop professional development programs like DINÉ and IECE is one way to fulfill this responsibility. “

President of the Navajo Nation Jonathan nose and First Lady Phefelia Nose were the main speakers; both spoke about the importance of focusing Indigenous experiences in the classroom. President Nez introduced himself to Diné and spoke about his own upbringing and recalled that his grandmother got him out of bed early in the morning so he could go about his business.

“The reason I am bringing this up is that it is very important that we integrate our lifestyle teaching into today’s curriculum,” President Nez told the assembled educators. “Sovereignty and education, that’s what we’re talking about. The Diné must be in control of our program, using our way of life by teaching – what we were raised with – and passing it on to our next generation.

Phefelia Nez also spoke about the important role educators have played in the life and education of their students.

“As teachers, you shape learning and development and play a major role in a child’s journey,” she said. “You strengthen students’ self-esteem and influence the development of their moral growth, but perhaps the most important characteristic of an effective teacher is to emulate the traits of a lifelong learner. Teachers who demonstrate a love for learning often pass that passion on to their students in the classroom.

In addition to Gatewood, five other teachers shared their experiences in their classrooms and how others might benefit from these lessons. Topics included

Poster Presentation: Creating Musical Patterns Using Native American Musical Instruments
Toni Nez, a colleague of DINÉ, presents her work of creating musical motifs using Native American musical instruments.

use photography to teach history, bead to teach math, learn about climate change through Betatakin Canyon, home to ancient rock dwellings, and create a class constitution. In each case, the aim was to promote innovation and culturally appropriate learning.

Participants were also able to explore over two dozen curriculum unit displays that explained different instructional approaches and lesson plans. Tactile and colorful lessons illustrated how teachers weave Navajo, Hopi, and Gila River traditions with science, math, language arts, and social studies.

Acting Navajo Nation Superintendent Patricia Gonnie discussed the importance of incorporating culture in preschool and how the programs developed by DINÉ and IECE teachers can improve student achievement in indigenous communities. Other presenters included Ron lee, Senior Director of Development for the NAU and Acting Vice President for Native American Initiatives Anne Marie Chischilly.