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American Indian Curriculum and Field Trip in Milwaukee

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Taking an approach that could boost student engagement in many other communities, Milwaukee Public Schools used a festive local event as a springboard and incentive to help students engage in curriculum about their American Indian tribal neighbors.

Corn husk doll
Corn husk dolls were part of the educational fun during Education Day at Indian Summer Festival, as reported by Fox 6 Now of Milwaukee. Image: Fox 6 Now.

In all, 1,872 students in Milwaukee attended the Indian Summer Festival’s Education Day this past September.

Indian Summer is one of a number of large, festive cultural events held at the Summerfest grounds on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Students and teachers accessed 10 lesson plans created by MPS’s First Nations Studies program. The lessons were specifically related to the experiences and workshops available on Education Day.

A student had to go through that material to attend the trip. Most students who participated were non-Native.

When students and teachers arrived on the festival grounds, they concretized the knowledge from the lessons by attending related events.

Although most communities don’t have an Indian Summer Festival, or the Summerfest grounds, other events or destinations around Wisconsin might serve as motivating cultural experiences.

A number of possibilities can be found on the Exploring Native American Heritage and Native Culture Directory pages at Others might be found by following the Department of Public Instruction’s Wisconsin American Indian Studies e-mail list and presences on Facebook, Twitter, or Google +. When paired with curriculum, such events can fuel learning. On a related note, the department also maintains a list of related Teaching and Learning Resources.

The program had its own tent at the event, featuring storytelling by Dr. Patty Loew, an author, professor, and television personality who is an enrolled member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe.

Teachers received a signed copy of Patty Loew’s revised and expanded book, Native People of Wisconsin, for classroom use. 

“Thanks for making history and culture come alive for our students at Indian Summer Education Day,” said Gale Niemczynski upon return. Niemczynski teaches fourth grade at U.S. Grant School in MPS.

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