Mni Sóta Makoce: A reflection

Mni Sóta Makoce: A reflection

It is unusual for graduate students in our disparate programs (History, Quantitative Methods in Educational Psychology, and Child Development) to collaborate on a project with one another, and even less likely to do so in a community, rather than research, focused context. Through this unique experience of scholarship, we developed many useful skills that will be helpful in future community and academic work. As we created products for a non-academic audience (such as parents and teachers), we realized that the language we oftentime use is complex, full of jargon, and not approachable. Thus, we made sure our products were straightforward and clear. Furthermore, these products differed in the type of thought that was needed to create them. We are used to writing papers using an almost formulaic structure. These products could look like anything we wanted, as long as they communicated our message in the most effective way. This tapped into creativity and innovation that we rarely employ in our academic manuscripts.

Lastly, as junior scholars, we typically approach our projects with clear personal goals that we believe will advance our careers (e.g., this project will be a publication or conference presentation). With the Mni Sóta Maḳoce project, our primary goal was to assist where we were needed to move the project forward. We were challenged to pick up where others had left off on the project, completing a literature review started by a previous scholar and creating and updating a database of teacher contact information. It felt meaningful and impactful to contribute to a project that would directly benefit the community. We found added value in understanding that our skills (new and old) could be put to use not just in the academic institution but also to contribute to the community.

All three of us are recent arrivals to the area, having moved here to attend University of Minnesota. Thus, none of us were very familiar with the history of Mni Sóta Maḳoce. On a basic level this experience was an opportunity for each of us to learn about Dakota history and their land upon which we occupy. However, as the summer progressed and our conversations with Dr. Iyekiyapiwin Darlene St. Clair, our community partner, deepened, we realized that this project was more than simply laying out the timeline of Dakota history or crafting a placemaking narrative which declares that Dakota history is in fact the history of Minnesota. On a deeper level, the Mni Sóta Maḳoce curriculum is about challenging how Minnesota students think about their place on this land, what this land means to them, and how their family is connected to it. The curriculum encourages students to use Dakota values to investigate their own values, and self-reflect upon the kind of life they want to lead. As scholars, we are trained to effectively present facts and research, but so rarely are asked to convey values to others in our work. Working on the Mni Sóta Maḳoce curriculum challenged each of us to move beyond our research skills and seriously consider how to stimulate a transformative process through our products, a process which fundamentally necessitated each of us to do our own self-reflection.

In a non-pandemic world, the CREATE scholar summer externship gives junior scholars the opportunity to engage in an external partnership with a community partner. However, like all other aspects of life, these plans were impacted by COVID-19. Because we could not meet in person and engage in in-person community meetings and events, we thought deeply about how to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on our work and still achieve our goals. Such unprecedented times have taught us each an incredible amount about how to collaborate remotely to reach a common goal.

The support from the CREATE staff and Dr. Iyekiyapiwin Darlene St. Clair, our community partner, has been incredibly gratifying. At the start of summer, we were concerned about our ability to be productive, given the challenges that came along with the pandemic. However, by the time our externship came to an end, we found ourselves producing three different products in collaboration with Darlene, as discussed above. This summer has taught us that no matter the challenges, to never set negative expectations, but rather to be open and optimistic about the opportunities these circumstances might create.

Indeed, the pandemic provided an opportunity to expand the curriculum material to a new audience: the parents and family of students. We are all familiar with the stories of how parents have had to take on a bigger role in their children’s education. Therefore, we focused on providing parents with materials which could give them a deeper understanding of the self-reflection their children would be engaging in and to give them the chance to do some of that self-reflection work themselves. Moreover, we were able to take on the challenges of remote instruction, and work on solutions to help teachers to more effectively engage with this curriculum. Thus, we decided to create a teacher-engagement survey which captured the various techniques teachers have used to convey the goals of the curriculum to their students. We focused on creating open-ended questions that provide teachers an opportunity to reflect on their own experience with the curriculum and material within the curriculum that may help inform improvements to the curriculum and how it should be delivered during remote teaching.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

True Detective izle css.php