Videodiscs Help American Indians Learn English and Study Heritage

By Reed, Mike | T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education), October 1991 | Go to article overview

Videodiscs Help American Indians Learn English and Study Heritage


Reed, Mike, T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)


For children on the Hualapai Indian Reservation in Peach Springs, Ariz., life is a rich combination of traditional Hualapai culture and contemporary lifestyle. Even among the ages-old natural beauty of the rolling hills, breathtaking cliffs, high plateaus and deep gorges surrounding the Grand Canyon, MTV has found a willing audience.

This melding of past with present extends to the school day where tudents may go from beading ceremonial belts and capes in art class to a science lesson where videodiscs are used to research the plants, animals and heavenly bodies revered in the traditions of our Indian culture.

Project TNT

For the past five years, Optical Data Corp.'s science videodiscs have been part of a three-pronged bilingual and bicultural curriculum program at the Hualapai Indian Peach Springs School.

Dubbed Project Tradition and Technology (Project TNT), the process-oriented program integrates the language and culture of the Hualapai with new teaching technologies to increase academic achievement and language competency in both Hualapai and English. The program also is intended to develop students' self-confidence and pride in their heritage.

Hualapai is the language that 91% of our K-8 grade students speak and hear at home. And 75% of our school's 200 students are identified as Limited English Proficient. each Springs teachers alternate between Hualapai and English to reinforce concepts, vocabulary and cultural awareness.

Project TNT emphasizes a holistic language approach. Language learning occurs when individuals are actively engaged in tasks in which they discover and explores concepts familiar to their environment. Via technologies such as interactive video and computers, students expand their conceptual ability and maximize their visual and auditory learning styles.

I first saw videodiscs in a presentation at a National School Boards Association conference over six years ago. Since then, they have had a tremendous impact on what we do here. In 1985, fewer than two-thirds of all Peach Springs students completed high school. Today, after using educational videodiscs as part of Project TNT, 100% of our graduates go on to obtain a high school diploma.

Teachers Explain Use

Classroom learning with the science videodiss is complemented by frequent field trips with community members and parents to local historical and cultural sites. For example, following a videodisc-based lesson on cavern formation, eighth-grade teacher Damon Clark took his students to visit the geologic formations of the nearby Grand Canyon caverns.

Clark, a teacher in one of the school's 14 self-contained classrooms for grades K-8, has been using The Living Textbook and Windows on Science curricula for the past three years. He teaches science for 45, minutes four or five times a week with the videodisc-based programs.

"The videodisc lesson made the [field] trip more meaningful to the students. They had better questions and were better prepared to learn from the trip with the prior knowledge they gained from the videodiscs," says Clark. Back in the classroom, students wrote reports that they then shared with their families.

The family is a very important social unit in the Hualapai culture. We believe the parent is a child's first and most important teacher. Parents in our 1,500-person town are very active in their children's education, support ongoing school activities and serve on our school board's parent advisory committee. So when we began using the videodiscs, Pam Cochran, a sixth-grade teacher at Peach Springs, created a videodisc presentation to share with parents during an open house. Using a Living Textbook lesson on Saturn, Cochran demonstrated the power and possibilities of the new technology to parents. The lesson was then integrated into the student curriculum.

Cochran appreciates the two types of software included with The Living Textbook secondary-level science series. …

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