Introducing “Who Walks Among Us?”- Bridging Indigenous Learning with Early Childhood Education – University of Colorado Boulder

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Boulder, CO – May 1, 2024 – Senior product design students Jessie Moyar and Sarah Fitzpatrick from CU Boulder’s Environmental Products of Design major unveil their innovative learning aids designed for Mapleton Montessori school’s playground. Developed with guidance from Right Relationship Boulder, a non-profit organization dedicated to integrating Indigenous knowledge into education, and the Center for Native and Indigenous Studies at CU Boulder, “Who Walks Among Us?” represents a groundbreaking addition to early childhood education.

Inspired by the need to address stereotypes and outdated curricula surrounding Indigenous cultures, Moyar and Fitzpatrick embarked on a journey to create learning aids that guide the students to connect with the Earth and the local Indigenous connections to the land. With guidance from Right Relationship Boulder, they engaged in consultation to ensure the project aligned with ethical standards and Indigenous perspectives.

Utilizing an online database provided by Andrew Cowell of the Center for Native and Indigenous Studies, the team identified animals significant to the Arapaho tribe and incorporated their names and footprints into the design. The result is a series of circular wooden paddles featuring extrusions of animal footprints along with elastic bands for children to wear on their hands and feet. As the children explore the sandbox while wearing these paddles, they leave behind local animal footprints.

Moyar and Fitzpatrick also developed curriculum cards for indoor activities, such as circle time and independent play; enhancing the outdoor play experience with in-depth education on the animals. These cards, inspired by Montessori curriculum practices, provide children with engaging opportunities to learn about animal behavior, Indigenous connections to the animals, and ecological concepts. The incorporation of Indigenous languages and cultural references enriches the educational experience, fostering cultural appreciation and understanding from an early age. By bridging Indigenous learning with early childhood education, “Who Walks Among Us?” not only empowers children to connect with nature but also lays the foundation for a more inclusive and culturally sensitive addition to the Montessori curriculum. Since colonization, Indigenous history and presence have been erased from schools. Local Arapaho activist Ava Hamilton says, “one of the things we are advocating for is to include the teaching of our histories in public education”.

For media inquiries or to schedule an interview, please contact Jessie Moyar at [email protected] or Please contact Sarah Fitzpatrick at [email protected]

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