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PJPII Catholic School Wins Mohegan Tribe Grant

During the second half of this school year, Mrs. Anne Wysowski (grade 6 teacher) and Mrs. Kathleen Welch (grade 7 teacher) from Pope John Paul II Catholic School (PJPII), were awarded the Mohegan Tribe Challenge Grant. Both teachers applied for this grant after collaborating a proposal indicating how they would incorporate teaching Native American history into their curriculum.

The Mohegan Tribe Challenge Grant program was established to invite elementary, middle-school and high school teachers throughout the state to submit applications which describe their approach to developing a curriculum to address issues of Native American history, traditions and culture, along with Tribal government and sovereignty. This year, applying recipients came from both elementary and high schools of various areas in CT.

The awarded grants of $250 each were based on the applicant’s ability to provide the greatest use of all resources. The Tribe’s Cultural and Community Programs department sponsored a one-day instructional program with a visit to the chosen schools. Representatives from the Mohegan Tribe visited classes at PJPII to share their heritage stories, even playing the traditional flute for students.

“They spoke about history, spoke about myths, cleared-up questions and wore their traditional garb,”said Welch.

In application for the grant, Welch and Wysowski explained that in CT, social studies curriculum focuses on CT in grade 4 and on Native Americans in grade 5. This is an area that could benefit older middle school students with a more challenging focus such as in grade 8 where the social studies curriculum begins at the reconstruction after the Civil War and continues through the present, but does not highlight Native Americans. Both teachers explained how the program would impact all 170 students at PJPII. From Pre-Kindergarten through grade 8 – the grade 8 students would be immersed in the learning while several of the younger grades would be taught by the older students about Native American culture.

Through the grant program, students focused on how a marginalized society sustains itself – their differences and similarities – stereotyping. The objectives were to learn about Native American cultural traditions, the effects of European culture on Native Americans and to learn to form fact-based opinions about cultural situations.

Students experienced Native American cooking through experimentation with recipes. Students also studied ceremonial music and dance, developed a timeline of the Mohegan tribe’s contribution to society, made maps and compared the area occupied by the Mohegan tribe at three separate times in the tribe’s history. They graphed the population of the tribe over the past 500 years. Eighteen eighth graders read and analyzed a number of traditional Mohegan and Native American folk tales. They then re-enacted what they learned and shared these stories with 50 second and third graders, then the entire school community.

“They took ideas from myths and put modern twists into skits and narratives,” said Wysowski. “They also did a paper on how they can promote tolerance in family, school and community.”

The grant also included a field trip for PJPII eighth-graders to the Mohegan Tribe’s museum.

A permanent display is planned to be established for the school for all students to learn from and appreciate.