Urban IAS, currently being piloted in Madison, works to improve educators’ capacity to teach to Wisconsin American Indian Studies/Act 31 requirements in accurate and authentic ways. The program uses the EP-IAS model to ground learning in place-based content in an urban, intertribal context, with a particular emphasis on Ho-Chunk culture and community (Madison is located on ancestral Ho-Chunk lands, the region known in Ho-Chunk as Teejop/Dejope, meaning “four lakes”). Through a series of six school-year sessions, participants build on knowledge gained during the summer institute. Sessions to-date have included Ho-Chunk attorney and federal Indian law expert Samantha Skenandore on tribal sovereignty, and Ho-Chunk Nation Higher Education Division manager Dr. Marcus Lewis on Ho-Chunk clans and kinship. During each session, instructional coaches from the Authentic Intellectual Work (AIW) Institute lead a process for assessing and improving lesson plans and teaching practices around Native education.
How does learning indigenous cultural content translate to the classroom? It’s important to think big picture, and not to trivialize the information shared by Native educators, but to push their students to consider diverse perspectives as they apply throughout the curriculum. “This information is so meaningful, and it’s not something that I would put on a multiple-choice quiz,” said one participant after learning about Ho-Chunk kinship. “This is about the different ways that people think about the world.”
AIW helps educators dig deeper by collaboratively scoring their lesson plans and student work on three core criteria: construction of knowledge, disciplined inquiry, and value beyond school. IAS’ emphasis on place-based, environmental stewardship is oriented towards these criteria, especially value beyond school, since it centers on hands-on learning and service to the community. The current Urban IAS cohort includes both Native and non-Native educators, who work together to score, discuss, and extend their lesson plans, hearing different perspectives on how Act 31 should be implemented in the classroom.
The Urban IAS journey is still in its beginning stages, but we’re excited to see the impact that the continued educational enrichment and AIW framework have already had. We look forward to exploring additional potential to use AIW to extend and sustain the important restoration-based, indigenous, and other culturally-based environmental education efforts that Earth Partnership teachers are working on throughout the state and region. Stay tuned!