Convening of Grantees 2016

Northwest Indian College Restorative Teachings Coordinating Team Members
From left to right: Anna Somerville, Early Childhood Educator; Alexis Ballew, Parent Representative; Nahrin Aziz-Parsons, Project Director; and Alicia Allard, Early Learning Partner

When I was asked to participate in the Restorative Teaching Early Childhood Education Initiative Coordinating Team for Northwest Indian College (NWIC), I jumped at the opportunity. I knew this would be an incredible opportunity for me both personally and professionally. I would get to be a part of a project that would do great things for the very community I come from, while at the same time, furthering my experience in the academic world.

As soon as we arrived at the Convening of Grantees, I realized how much there was to learn. As the other teams presented I realized how different we were, how different our project goals were, and how differently the entire aspect of whole child wellness can be perceived from within different tribal nations. As each team presented, I learned something new. Our main focus at Northwest Indian College is building an outdoor learning classroom, introducing more native plants to the children, and increasing physical activity levels. The other grantees’ ideas included ideas I had never even thought of. For example, Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute is offering teachers trainings about economic development, with the idea being that families who can obtain economic security can afford to make decisions such as buying healthier, but often, more expensive food. Another example is Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College’s idea of incorporating safe sleep practices and car seat safety practices into their project goals. Each presentation was unique but equally interesting and gave me ideas to bring back home. I returned to NWIC with page after page of notes to share with my team as well as with the teachers at the NWIC Early Learning Center.

Out of the many activities and sessions I attended while I was in Denver (including a nature and wellness tour on the Denver trolley and health expedition session held at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science) what resonated with me the most was the time spent with the other grantees. This opportunity would have been otherwise impossible since the teams are scattered across different regions of the country.

Collaborating with them as well as with our American Indian College Fund (AICF) Senior Program Officer and AICF consultants was beyond inspiring. For example, during a drama activity we got to learn how acting can be a fun, clever way to teach young children about the human body. We also participated in many other activities as a combined entity, not as separate teams. Group interactions like these allowed us to learn about each other and from each other. Sharing knowledge amongst ourselves and motivating each other not only as experts in our field but as individuals helped me to come home feeling uplifted with new ideas, ready to get to work on the next steps in this process. At one point fellow NWIC coordinating team member Alicia Allard said to me “conferences and convenings like this give us the motivation to keep going”. Personally, I couldn’t agree more with Alicia’s statement. As a team we have a lot of hard work ahead of us but we now have new ideas and renewed motivation to push forward, thanks to the Restorative Teaching Early Childhood Education Initiative ECE Convening.

Written by, Anna Somerville, Lead Preschool Teacher