By Arianna Morseau
This summer, the Pokagon Band Department of Education opened up a new enrichment opportunity for native children. This enrichment opportunity was a learning experience for K-12 graders called Dreamcatchers. It was to help students with their tribal history. They focused on culture and tribal identity in a fun and welcoming way that children found entertaining and that parents found unique. The students went on field trips and toured the surrounding communities, which made them take notice about our tribe’s sovereign nation.
The groups learned about organizations such as Chi Ishobak (Big Cabbage) and the Casino. They learned their language and improved on their academics too. The program was held at the Pokagon Band Head Start Building, Rodgers Lake, Dowagiac, Michigan and lasted for a month.
The high school students were from grades eight and up, and met Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays each week. They learned how to make Dreamcatchers, looked at Pokagon Band presentations, took field trips to the Pokagon Village, Summnerville Mounds, Sacred Heart Church and the burial ground of Simon and Leopold Pokagon. Donnie Sumners, Ray Bush, and Polly Mitchell showed the kids around, and had a fun time while doing so. Every Friday they job shadowed some of the college interns at their departments and helped work on presentations.
The students also went to Midwest Energy, watched a University of Michigan STEM presentation with Mark Moldwin, who taught them about physics and the atmosphere. Later in the week, the high schoolers took a Lake Michigan renewable energy tour and visited Pucker Street dam, Berrien Springs Dam, Gage Street and Lake Michigan.
The students learned about financial wellness and academic and cultural infusion. They went to Western Michigan University and took a school campus tour. "Visiting the campus was cool,” Sam Morseau, the Pokagon Education Department Director said. “It was an enriching experience. Watching the students get excited about college made it all worthwhile."
The last week of Dreamcatchers they saw a presentation from Troy Clay, the CEO of Mno-Bmadsen. Afterwards they learned about the Michigan Indian Tuition Waiver from Melissa Claramount from the Michigan Office Civil Rights. They went to Accu-mold on Wednesday, the last day of Dreamcatchers for the high schoolers.
Polly Mitchell was the educator for the 8-12 grade students. "At first, I was expecting more kids to show up,” she said. “But most days we only had half of them show. The kids were really awesome. And my favorite part about teaching the kids was when they enjoyed learning. I loved the success that we had and that everybody had fun."
Amber Morseau was the college intern that helped Polly on her Dreamcatchers journey. She had much to say about the program. "I had the opportunity to teach two classes. It was fun to see the kids grow academically and culturally. I wish we did more programs like this."
The K-7 grade students went on Tuesdays and Thursdays each week. The younger students went to the library a couple times and made a K.W.L chart, (what I know, what I wanna know, what I learned) too.
They watched and read Through Eagle Eyes, Knees Lifted High, Plate Full of Color, and Tricky Treats. In doing so, they completed most days with an animal language and culture learning session. On field trip days, the younger groups went to Binder Park Zoo, the Air Zoo, Healthworks, and the Dowagiac History Museum.
They had a talk about the University of Michigan, and did a Midwest Energy Moon Phases activity. In that, they learned about magnets, electricity, simple machines and senses. The students also did a being balanced overview and an energy stick project. They worked on higher education planning, career development and learned about famous Pokagons.
When you get a head start, you need to take it. It comes rarely, and with the Dreamcatchers program, the students learned more about themselves and their likes than they ever had before.
Arianna Morseau, a Dreamcatchers participant who lives near Seattle, Washington, is 13. “When I learned about Dreamcatchers, I made the best of it,” she said. “I want to be an author someday; I learned new things that I can include in my writing, and I cannot wait until next summer!”