Winter Count project portrays GSE students’ journeys


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Graduate Teacher Education Program (GTEP) teacher candidates in the Integrated Arts cohort have used a tribal method to construct “portfolios” of their journeys through their program. Curriculum and Instruction Department Associate Professor Jan Abramovitz collaborated with American Indian Teacher Program Director Maria Tenorio to give students a new process by which to construct portfolios of their learning in a creative way that honors those who originally occupied the land.

The Winter Count project is modeled after one method employed by tribal nations to record and preserve their history. Students’ artwork is based on the Nakota Sioux Winter Count, an educator lesson from the National Museum of the American Indian. The Winter Count lesson illustrates how an oral culture used pictographs as a mnemonic device to create a calendar of a year in the tribe’s life. As such, it provides American Indian context to a time in American history when major social, cultural, and economic changes took place in tribal cultures.

While the Nakota storytellers captured their history on buffalo hides, the Integrated Arts cohort students have used a variety of resources and employed symbols that represent their yearlong journeys toward becoming teachers.

This exhibit turns the GSE lobby into a gallery showcase of student artwork, richly demonstrating how the arts can be integrated into the academic classroom.

The Winter Count project highlights interprogram collaboration within the Curriculum and Instruction Department. Importantly, it models respectful ways schools and classrooms can work to understand the history and cultures of America by learning about American Indian history from an indigenous perspective. It also features an important but underused teaching resource, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian educator lessons.

The Integrated Arts cohort was founded in the GSE to train teachers to provide schoolchildren with multiple languages to express their learning and make their thinking visible. In the Integrated Arts cohort, teacher candidates meet all the requirements of the teacher preparation program as they learn strategies to construct and demonstrate understanding of academic content through the arts. Students in this cohort examine theories and practices of arts integration, assessment, multicultural education, arts and cultures in the community, music, visual art, storytelling, drama, dance, and media arts.

The Integrated Arts cohort students are displaying their works throughout the GSE lobby through the month of April.

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