A year ago, when schools switched to online learning due to Covid-19, the PSESD Native American Education Program (and all other Title VI Indian Education programs) also had to shift in how to deliver support to the students it serves. The primary focus of the program is direct service student support in school buildings, family night events and classroom presentations — and that suddenly was cut off.
Our PSESD NAEP staff wanted to continue to provide cultural support and show the students in the program that we were still out there and thinking about them. The program serves over 550 Native students in four Pierce County school districts, and one thing we didn’t want to do was overwhelm them and add more stress to an already unprecedented time in their lives.
The way our program moved forward to meet this challenge was to utilize multiple ways of communication and check-ins with students and parents.
For the past year, our program has:
- Created and taught virtual cultural lessons, inviting students to Zoom or Google Meet with us during lunch, after school or during asynchronous learning days.
- Built pages on each district’s learning management system — posting lessons, YouTube videos, personal videos and written posts asking a question or sharing some information.
- Put together “cultural care packages” to mail to families and students lessons, books, activities, crafts, small honorings and personal notes on postcards with Native art on them.
- Held virtual family nights on Zoom with virtual games on Kahoot, guest storytellers and artists.
- Emailed families to keep them updated about what was going on, virtual events in Indian Country, and college and scholarship information for those with high school students.
It hasn’t been perfect. It’s not the same as the direct service, where relationship building happens each year between students and staff. And it is hard to read emails from students saying they are not really doing much and are bored. However, we have worked hard to continue to keep that line of communication open and show students and families that we see them, support them and look forward to being in the school again when possible.