Center for Bilingual and Multicultural Education Helps Revitalize Native American Languages in Montana 

Group photo of attendees during the 2015 Class 7 Professional Development InstituteTeachers and administrators from school districts in Montana attended a three day Class 7 professional development institute during the summer, focusing on pedagogical strategies for teaching American Indian languages and culture in schools. Funded by the Montana Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education's Title II “Improving Teacher Quality” grant, the MSU Center for Bilingual and Multicultural Education (CBME), housed in the MSU Department of Education, hosted a series of speakers, panel discussions, technology workshops, and networking events to support current Class 7 instructors, who are licensed in Native American language and culture.

State Senator Jonathan Windy Boy was sponsor of the 2013 Indian Language Preservation Pilot Programs and the Native Language Preservation Bill (SB 272) that passed the Montana legislature in 2015. Over the last 13 years, he has formed alliances, secured financial support from the governor’s office, and finally crafted a bill that “has revolutionized education in Montana and all the U.S.”

Eighty-eight school districts in Montana are eligible for the language immersion program, with the goal of raising student achievement, strengthening families, and preserving Indian languages and culture.

“Bringing together Class 7 teachers, other Indigenous language instructors, and language revitalization supporters was the first in what we hope to be a series of professional development opportunities,” said Jioanna Carjuzaa, education professor and executive director of the CBME. “Over the next couple of years, we will be offering webinars in lesson and unit planning, classroom management, technology and curriculum development and assessment, as well as visiting schools on or near reservations where Class 7 teachers are instructing.”

Celebrating the Buffalo 

2016 Fort Peck Buffalo Summit PosterFor thousands of years the buffalo was integral to every part of the lives of American Indians— from being a source of food and clothing to their spiritual and cultural traditions. After being eliminated from their lands during the 1800s, the Montana tribes (Assiniboine and Sioux) of the Fort Peck area began acquiring mixed genetic buffalo again in the late 1990s, and in 2012 had the opportunity to obtain a small, genetically pure herd from Yellowstone National Park.

This return provided the basis for a unique partnership with Fort Peck Community College (FPCC), Montana State University, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Elizabeth Bird, project development specialist for the College of Education, Health and Human Development, along with Elizabeth Rink, associate professor in community health, worked with the people of Fort Peck and FPCC to build “a ceremony of research.”

“An advisory board was created to investigate the significance of the buffalo herd’s return for the health and well-being of the people,” said Bird, who helped conduct a series of presentations and interviews beginning in 2013.

To move the project forward, late in 2014, the group began organizing a community event called the Buffalo Summit with the principal audience being the children and teachers of the Fort Peck reservation. Bird said the five-day Buffalo People Summit during Native American Week in September 2015 began with a reenactment of the Pté San Win (the White Buffalo Calf Woman) story conducted by the Fort Peck Tribes Language and Culture Department and included three days of field trips for over 1000 school children at the Fort Peck Tribes’ Cultural Buffalo Herd Ranch Facility. Educators and elders gave tipi presentations on the social and natural history and spiritual connection to the buffalo. It concluded with a full-day workshop for adults culminating with the Fort Peck Taste of Buffalo feast. New projects are planned for 2016.

Leap into Literacy 

EHHD student reads with elementary student at Heck Quaw Elementary in Belgrade, MontanaOn Leap Year Day, February 29, Heck Quaw Elementary School in Belgrade, Montana, bustled with activity as students from the Department of Education hosted “Leap into Literacy” for families with children in kindergarten through fourth grade. Funded by seed grant funds for engagement and outreach by the College of EHHD and organized by Kappa Delta Pi (KDP) honorary society, students in KDP and the language arts methods class created literacy games to play with children, read books, and offered up slices of pizza. President-elect, Stephanie White, said Literacy Alive is a service project that Kappa Delta Pi puts on every year to promote literacy and build community relationships.

“The goal of the evening was to share a love of literacy with children and their families,” said Kathryn Will-Dubyak, director of EHHD’s Field Placement and Licensure and advisor to KDP.

Will-Dubyak worked with Principal Lori Degenhart, who had wanted to do an event like this for a long time. Through collaboration with MSU, EHHD seed grant funds, and dedication from KDP students, the event was a success for the many children who attended.

Even Bobcat student athletes volunteered to “read to a Bobcat.” One fourth grader read a book to the entire women’s golf team, while others read to defensive linemen on the football team. By special request, Tanner Butterfield, elementary education major and a member of the MSU rodeo team arrived in jeans, boots and cowgirl hat so that a young girl could meet and read specifically to a rodeo athlete. Her mother said she had been waiting all day to read to Butterfield.

Carly DeLorenzo, a freshman from Easton, Conn., said one child came back to her four times to read her books because she enjoyed it so much.

“Just the idea that they (KDP) put this literacy event on for the children opened my eyes to the beauty of the tight-knit (school) community, and it’s events like these that seem to bring local families and students together through education,” said DeLorenzo.

In all, over 100 volunteers attended to make the evening a success for the 89 children and 64 parents who attended.

“One of the best outcomes of the event,” said White, “was receiving a thank you note from a parent explaining how her child, who struggles in reading, loved playing the literacy games. Now, the child wants to be a writer.”

Education Student Honored as Newman Civic Fellow

Portrait photo of Levi BirkyLevi Birky, a secondary education major in MSU’s College of Education, Health and Human Development and Honors College from Kalispell, has been named a 2016 Newman Civic Fellow by Campus Compact. Montana State University’s former student body president has been recognized with a national award for his public involvement and motivation to create lasting change.

Birky is one of 218 student leaders from across the country selected as a Newman Civic Fellow. The award is in recognition of his work to find solutions for challenges facing his community and for his service, community-based research and advocacy. As a fellow, Birky will join a network of fellows around the country who will share ideas and tools through online networking.

Birky, a junior, has served as president of the Associated Students of MSU since last October, when the then-president resigned. He has been involved with ASMSU since his freshman year, when he was elected as a senator. He served for two terms as a student senator and was then elected as vice president last spring.

Read the full MSU News story here.

Phi U Honorary Society Wins First Place in National Competition 

Dr. Sandy Osborne and Sierra Smith accept award on behalf of Phi Upsilon Omicron for professional project at national competitionMSU’s oldest honorary society, Phi Upsilon Omicron (Phi U), was awarded first place for their professional project in a national competition for 2016. The project focused on raising awareness of the number and needs of homeless youth in Bozeman Public Schools. Through showing the movie “American Winter,” a movie about the hardships families faced in the recent recession, and collecting 850 pounds of donated items and $216 in cash, members of Phi U felt their project had a definite impact on students and community members who did not realize that 5% of students in Bozeman are homeless.

Sandy Osborne, family and consumer sciences faculty and Phi U advisor, said the members submitted written ideas for the professional project and then voted on the projects. The top three were discussed and voted on again for the final project idea.

Sierra Smith, this year’s president, said they formed committees for marketing, budgeting, volunteering, and outreach.

“We hung posters around campus and in residence halls, placed an ad in the Exponent, (MSU student newspaper) and we sat at a table in the Union Market area of the SUB to reach out to students,” said Smith, a community health major.

Smith and fellow Phi U member, Jessica Perrault, also stood outside Walmart with empty shopping carts collecting donations. They were amazed at the generosity and caring spirit of the Bozeman community.

As one woman was leaving the store, she pulled out some change from her pocket and told Smith and Perrault that was all the money she had left from her shopping trip and she hoped it would make a difference.

“It was a very humbling moment for me that I will remember always,” said Smith.

In September, Lindsay Stickel, vice-president and family and consumer science education major, traveled with Osborne to the national conclave in Oklahoma City to receive the first place award for “Creating Warmth for our Youth Legacy by Fostering the Light of the Home Tradition.”

“It was empowering to see women in their seventies, eighties, and even nineties attending conclave because of their pride and passion for family and consumer sciences and related fields,” said Stickel, a senior in family and consumer sciences education from Terry, Mont. “It was inspiring to reflect on how those women went to college in a time in which women attending universities was still not commonly accepted, and family and consumer sciences and related fields were included in the limited majors they could study.”

Founded in 1917 at MSU, Phi U will be celebrating its 100th anniversary on the campus on July 27-28, 2017, with an open house and tours of Herrick Hall, the campus and more. Working with the MSU Alumni Foundation, over 800 Phi U alumni have been invited to attend the celebration. Nationally, Phi U has over 98,000 members in 54 collegiate chapters in four regions, as well as 19 alumni chapters and the new electronic chapter.