Ledger Art, medicinal plants and a trial of Columbus and his crew were just some of the creative teaching ideas being shared Monday at the 11th Annual Indian Education for All Best Practices Conference at the Radisson Colonial Hotel.
An estimated 300 Montana educators are gathered in Helena to share and learn ideas for teaching about the unique cultural heritage and history of American Indians.
This conference is a time when teachers get to talk peer-to-peer about what really works in the classroom.
One of those teachers is Carolyn Pardini who has been teaching fourth grade at Pablo Elementary School in the Mission Valley for 25 years.
She wandered into the spectacularly beautiful valley decades ago because of its geography, she said, but what’s kept her there are the people she’s met and ”the generosity of the Salish, Kootenai and Pend d’Oreille people.”
She’s now teaching the children of her former students, and seems both surprised and happy that this has come to be. “What an honor that is. It’s been really special.”
When you listen to Pardini talk about her classes, you understand why she was honored this year with the prestigious Teresa Veltkamp Advocacy Award for Excellence in Indian Education for All.
You also start wishing you could sneak into her classroom and be one of her fourth graders.
“I like to have fun!” she said.
Tuesday morning she’ll share one of her lesson plans for a social studies and science class she teaches on identifying different animals of the Mission Valley riparian areas.
Students not only use such skills as reading and note taking, but also a new wish and wildlife phone app field guide by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.
And you get to take what you learn and create a wire sculpture of one of the animals, exploring “what quality does that animal have.” She also weaves in some creative writing as well.
“I’m so grateful that the Office of Public Instruction supports teachers” in teaching Indian Education for All, Pardini said, such as this conference.
“We really are a model for other states. We need that leadership (from OPI), and we need that support.”
Monday afternoon, Great Falls K-6 art teacher Miranda Murray showed some vibrant examples of Native American Ledger Art that were created by Plains Indians from 1860 to the 1900s, often made with colored pencils on ledger paper.
In the 1960s and ‘70s there was a resurgence of interest and the rise of some amazing contemporary Ledger Art, which is still growing in popularity.
Then it was time for the 30 teachers in Murray’s workshop to take colored pencils, crayons and markers in hand to create their own Ledger Art to share with their students and to brainstorm how they might use it to teach lessons in everything from science, to writing, to social studies.
Industrial arts teacher Robe Walker spoke of a trick he’d learned of how to take one’s self-created Ledger Art, cover it with layers of lacquer, soak it in water until the paper falls away and then use the clear image on the lacquer to apply to another surface.
Marga Lincoln with the Independent Record