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Kindergarteners Explore Native American Traditions

By: Amanda Karioth Thompson, COCA | November 27, 2017

There’s a famous book by Robert Fulghum titled “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” This phrase has entered the common vernacular due to the popularity of the book and the title’s humor and inherent truth. We do learn a lot in kindergarten, like how to write the letters of the alphabet and how to use numbers to count and sort.

We also learn life and social skills like sharing and saying please and thank you. Lifelong friendships bloom in kindergarten and children begin to understand the connections between themselves and others and how important those relationships can be.

Holiday rituals are also explored in the kindergarten classroom and educators often try to provide context for those traditions. Trisha Bowden, the kindergarten lead teacher at Cornerstone Learning Community, is one of them.

She is committed to presenting the story of Thanksgiving in a simplified but realistic way, choosing culture over caricature. “Growing up in the ’80s, we did a lot of turkey handprints and Pilgrim hats. Thinking back, it makes me cringe,” confessed Bowden. “The more education that I got, in undergrad and grad school, I thought ‘what were they teaching me when I was younger?’” Bowden believes it’s her responsibility to teach the true history of the holiday, which includes the perspective and role of indigenous Americans. Doing so requires her to set aside portions of her own educational experience and motivates her to fully embrace others.

Raised in the Pacific Northwest, Bowden became familiar with the culture and customs of the Haida American Indian tribe. She later moved to New York where she learned about the Iroquois and their artwork. Her first teaching job was in Nevada and her students studied the Hopi tribe and their petroglyphs. These images carved into rock served as visual representations of a complex belief structure.

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