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New Course to Help Teachers

New Course to Help Teachers
Relate to American Indian Students

Prospective teachers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will soon be able to learn the subtle and sometimes striking differences between American Indian students and their classmates.

A new course led by Professor Al Arth and two others will be the first Arth can remember that zeros in on teaching to a specific racial or ethnic minority group. The Teacher’s College long has taught a course on multiculturalism.

“In some ways, the Native American student is simply different,” Arth says. “When we fail with a student, we have to ask ourselves, ‘How did the school and the community miss talking to each other?’”

The course is designed to help teachers predict, recognize and avoid potential cultural conflicts. For example, a Nebraska teacher recently asked her students to run their fingers through a buffalo hide and describe how it felt to the touch.

One student refused, not because he was a troublemaker, Arth says, but because the family of that student — an American Indian and member of the Omaha Nation — believed that touching a dead buffalo’s hide was wrong.

The teacher let the student skip the assignment, but oftentimes the state’s instructors aren’t as adept at understanding the unique culture of the Omaha Nation or the cultures of other American Indian tribes, Arth says.

The university hopes eventually to adapt the curriculum for students from the Santee Sioux and Winnebago tribes.

The four-week summer course, which started July 10, will feature guest speakers from the Omaha Nation reservation. Tribal elders and religious leaders will teach the UNL students about Omaha Nation history, the family structure within the tribe and the ceremonies important on and off the reservation.

— Associated Press

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