Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Culture-Based Arts Education That Teaches against the Grain: A Model for Place-Specific Material Culture Studies

Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Culture-Based Arts Education That Teaches against the Grain: A Model for Place-Specific Material Culture Studies

Article excerpt

Culture-based arts integration (CBAI) (Bequette & Hrenko, 2010; Hrenko, 2010) that teaches against the grain (Cochran-Smith, 1991) is one path to making schools-whether public, independent, or government-run-more engaging places for Indigenous youth and spaces for furthering anti-oppressive education to achieve social change (Adams, Bell, & Griffin, 2007; Anderson, Gussak, Hallmark, & Paul, 2010; Anderson & Milbrandt, 2005; Stuhr, 1994). CBAI is also about creating place-based critical pedagogy (Gruenewald, 2003a) that permits historical and contemporary perspectives of Indigenous material culture to critically wrestle with dominant discoursesthose of Whitemen's schools, Western art, and American Indian historicization (Bequette & Petkau, 2011,2013).

This article makes public outcomes of Project Intersect (PI), a $1-million, research-based Arts in Education Model Demonstration and Dissemination (AEMDD) grant.1 Funded from 2006 to 2010, PI made possible the immersion of over 1,000 K-8 students in CBAI. Fifty educators in two public schools with enrollment at 17% Indigenous and one neighboring tribal school with 100% Indigenous enrollment received cultural competency training.

Authors of the PI grant questioned whether culture-based education (see, for example, Demmert, 2011 ; Deyhle & Swisher, 1997; Hermes, 2000,2005) which focused on the language and material culture of Ojibwe peoples2 living in the upper Midwest could improve the academic success of K-8 students, both Indigenous and non-lndigenous, in the arts and on state-mandated achievement tests in reading and math. Pi's creators envisioned using integrated placespecific Indigenous knowledge (Sobel, 2004) as a meaningful entry point for culturally responsive student-centered teaching (Gay, 2000; Villegas, 1991). Interdisciplinary project-based learning (PBL) (David, 2008; Larmer, 2011) of this sort would help learners see connections as well as contradictions between the way they know the world and the way others know the world (Moje, Mcintosh, Kramer, Ellis, Rosario, & Collazo, 2004).

Participating teachers' actual curriculum development began only after a "design team" of Indigenous and White stakeholders spent year 1 of the project conceptualizing Pi's local model for Ojibwe-focused arts integration. With assistance from the grant's authors (three White, university-based researchers) the design team also devised the cultural competency training teachers would receive during Pi's following 3 years of curriculum development and implementation. The university team included the grant's co-principal investigators: a senior research associate with far-reaching experience developing and managing federal grants for American Indian tribes and communities, and an art education professor with valuable K-12 teaching and research experience in a California Indian community. The latter was also Pi's curriculum lead and is the author of this article. Other key support came from an art education PhD student (now a professor in an Eastern university) and two Ojibwe project coordinators. The first now directs a Midwest state's office of American Indian education, and the second now coordinates American Indian education services in a public school district.

Invited Indigenous elders, school teachers, and other tribal members on the design team concluded that culturally responsive education in the arts and other subjects must: 1 ) privilege the heritage language of Ojibwe students; 2) provide access to place-specific Ojibwe material culture defined here as "any and all human-constructed objects, forms, or expressions, manifested consciously or unconsciously through culturally acquired behaviors"(Bolin & Blandy, 2003, p. 249); and 3) assure student contact with Indigenous role models (Castagno & Brayboy, 2008; Grande, 2004; Gruenewald, 2003a, 2003b; Hermes, 2000, 2005; Llpka, Sharp, Adams, & Sharp, 2007; Sobel, 2004; Villegas, 2006). …

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