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On the blog: Passage to Schools travels to Wagner, SD

July 31, 2014

by Gabrielle Seeley, Rapid City High School

Gabrielle Seeley took her show on the road to Wagner on the Yankton Indian Reservation in southeastern South Dakota this week. Mrs. Seeley, an arts and language teacher at Rapid City High School, is using the curricula she developed based on The Sculpture Project, called Passage to Schools, as a starting point for education about Oceti Sakowin culture and literature.

Working at Wagner Community School this week is an enormous privilege. The people in this school, both students and staff, are focused on learning and working together. Each day, I am working with around 105 students in grades K-8, using Passage to Schools lessons that teach students about Oceti Sakowin culture and literature. Students of all ages have been reading texts from Ella Deloria and Luther Standing Bear as well as Lakota origin stories. We then make art that links to the lessons, allowing students to express their original thinking.

Today at lunch, I asked two sixth-grade artists to tell me what they thought about the work we are doing together this week. I let them know that people all over the state are interested in this idea of learning about Oceti Sakowin culture using art and text. They helped me write down their thoughts so I could share their thinking with others. The wisdom of these girls radiates from their words and echoes what other Wagner students have been saying to me and writing to me this week.

“Making art about Oceti Sakowin culture this week is really cool, because my dad is part Oceti Sakowin, and so am I. Before this, I learned a few Dakota words, because my mom taught me. Now I know Oceti Sakowin means Seven Council Fires. Until now, I never knew how neat I could draw.  This week, I can take my time, and I am not rushed. We are making art about texts from Oceti Sakowin writers. We learned about how animals take care of their babies really well.” -Laila, Wagner 6th grader

“I’m not Oceti Sakowin. I’m German, Irish, and Danish. But learning about Oceti Sakowin culture is important because we live here in South Dakota, so we live around Oceti Sakowin culture. Reading Oceti Sakowin texts is cool because the stories teach us values. I never liked art before because I didn’t think I was good at it. But this week I got better at my art because we got to take our time. I really love writing and riding horses." -Ciara, Wagner 6th grader

I'm excited for our big Project Fair on Friday, when everyone will be invited to see the art and writing these students have created. I'm gathering great learning data about the literacy skills of these students, and I'll be sharing that data with many South Dakota educators in the coming year. These students are doing such a fine job with Passage to Schools lessons! I'm incredibly lucky to have the chance to learn and make art with them this summer.

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