Friday, November 20, 2009

Pow Wow: The Main Event

This morning was a beautiful sunny day. As the drums began to beat and over 200 kindergartners began to pour into the Pow Wow arena dressed in authentic native attire, my mind drifted back to my first Pow Wow. My first Pow Wow was in 1990 at Alimacani Elementary School. It was the first year the new school opened. At the time my daughter Courtney and I were both part of that Pow Wow. She was a kindergartner just beginning her school journey and I had returned to teaching after a leave of absence as a stay-at-home mom. Back then we did a very generic Pow Wow with our brown dyed pillowcases and a grocery bag headdress of feathers. We colored large macaroni and strung then into necklaces. We painted war paint on every child's face. As a tribute to my daughter, who began her first year of teaching this year, I wear the clay Pow Wow medallion that she made that first year, as I have every year since then, and I also keep her picture on my desk during this season. It is a reminder to me of why we spend so much time making memories for our children at Chets Creek. Pow Wow is one of Courtney's favorite elementary school memories.

Ten years later a new school was built in our area and Chets Creek opened its doors with many Alimacani students and teachers. Susan Phillips was one of the Creeks first kindergarten teachers and she brought the Pow Wow tradition with her from Alimacani. She, of course, is now the Principal at Chets Creek and still uses her original native name, Chief Jumping Frog, named for the frogs that dominated her kinder classroom. During the years that she has led Chets Creek there has been quite a transformation in our Pow Wow ceremony. We have spent quite some time researching Native American tribes in hopes of presenting our children with an authentic picture of life back then.  We have tried to recreate the clothing that the tribes might have worn then. Each of our eight kindergarten classes represents a different tribe from a different part of the country. We have chosen to learn about native dances, authentic songs and to celebrate native music. The unit now is one in which we celebrate diversity.

This morning the sun shone through the trees as eight tribes entered the Pow Wow arena. The tribes danced and sang as their families snapped away, catching each precious moment on film.

It really does take a village for us to pull off  Pow Wow! As the tribes left the main event - the Pow Wow - they spent the rest of the day working their way through Centers manned by the Resource Team (PE, Music, Art...) that provide a culmination to this important appreciation of cultural differences. Take a tour of the centers. Children spent time in an authentic tepee with Peaceful Waters Media Specialist KK Cherney, each taking a turn with the talking stick to tell their friends what they are thankful for this Thanksgiving season. They visited a longhouse with Speech Therapist Moe Dygan listening to a real outdoors man talk about his hunting experiences and letting the children touch many of the artifacts before tasting a venison wrap. Then it was time for tapping out authentic tribal beats on drums with the Music teachers and going on a Native American scavenger hunt with the PE teachers. Watch out for the bears and buffalo! Using natural dyes to paint with one of the Art teachers and working with clay with another helped the children understand the crafts and art of native people. The children even participated in a Native American Bingo game to help synthesize their experiences with the different tribes. This is a well organized learning event for our youngest learners. I'll bet the children - and the teachers - sleep well tonight!

Update: Visiting with us at Pow Wow was a photographer, Kristina Broome, from our Duval County Communications Department. She has written a beautiful article for our county about the event that includes a Flickr photostream. The article and pictures form a wonderful overview of the event. Enjoy!


Suzanne said...

I love the picture of Court and loved the entire event yesterday. What I find most fascinating is that the CCE learning leaders are never satisfied with what has been rather always stretch themselves to offer deeper and more authentic learning experiences for students. The reflection, thought, and tweaking of this tradition has made all the difference, and leaves such a lasting impression on kids and parents alike. I applaud everyone that made this a great success, and appreciate every ounce of energy and time that went into this incredible Pow Wow.

Mrs.Mallon & Mrs. Dillard said...

Learning, growing, making memories - the best Powwow ever -- I think so!!MM