American Indian College Fund’s “For the Wisdom of the Children” Program to Build Native Early Childhood Teacher Pipeline, Promote STEM in Early Childhood Education

Published April 4, 2018 

Strengthening Early Childhood Education for Native Children and Families

DENVER — Research has shown that children of color are more likely to succeed when they have a teacher of the same race. Yet Native children are much more likely to have a white teacher than a Native teacher. To promote a positive educational trajectory for Native children, the American Indian College Fund is launching the new “For the Wisdom of the Children” program, thanks to a two-year, $1.5 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

For the Wisdom of the Children will offer culturally based training for current early childhood education teachers and preservice education for prospective teachers at up to seven tribal colleges and universities (TCUs). In addition, the program will create STEM opportunities grounded in Indigenous approaches including culture and language, starting with the earliest Native learners and their families. This is especially important given that Natives are severely underrepresented in the STEM fields.

As Native students are influenced by a positive learning experience with Native teachers, the College Fund’s goal is to reduce the structural and educational inequities that keep Native students from pursuing STEM education and work. Teachers will improve their knowledge of STEM in early learning environments, and TCUs will enjoy enhanced tribal and university teacher education programs with an emphasis on STEM and early childhood education, creating community-based programs, and culture-based curriculum design.

The College Fund will partner with a number of organizations and institutions to provide teacher professional development, early learning systems, STEM content and research, interactive pedagogy, and family and community education provider training, including The National Association for the Education of Young Children, WestEd, and Brazelton Touchpoints Center.

“We thank the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for its continued commitment to place-based, culturally competent education, especially for our youngest citizens. This initiative builds on extensive, community-based engagement, helping tribal people adapt to contemporary opportunities. Creating better approaches to the formal education of young children is our way of adapting to modern society as Native people. We are especially excited to be supporting the education of teachers so they can both teach more skillfully and take advantage of employment opportunities,” Cheryl Crazy Bull, President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, said,

”We are honored to support the American Indian College Fund as they partner with tribal colleges and universities to strengthen the early childhood education pipeline for Native children and families,” said Carla Thompson Payton, vice president for program strategy at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “We are committed to improving access to high quality, early childhood education and education systems, where families are engaged in schools and practices are rooted in a community’s culture and language.”

To learn more about how the American Indian College Fund prepares young children for academic and social success at a foundational age by creating and providing a place-based, culturally appropriate education, download the College Fund’s free landmark report detailing its work that has inspired an international movement: Tribal College and University Childhood Education Initiatives: Strengthening Systems of Care and Learning with Native Communities from Birth to Career.

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