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Highlands Elementary integrates Native American culture into gym classes

Ellen Mi, staff writer

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Picture your elementary school self in gym class: you crouch down with a wooden stick to maneuver a ball on the squeaky gym floor as sweat drips down your tomato-red face during a game of… Native American lacrosse? Originating from Indigenous culture, lacrosse is not considered a traditional gym class activity, while games like dodgeball, Dance Dance Revolution, and freeze tag are among the nostalgic memories of elementary gym classes for many students at Edina High School. Differing from what gym class has previously been considered, teachers have begun instituting a new method of teaching through important cultural lessons.

Recently, Twin Cities Native Lacrosse paid a visit to Highlands Elementary School, making gym class more than a time for students to participate in physical activity. To an EHS student, the value Highlands puts forth by implementing cultural lessons within gym class is not unprecedented, “Highlands is a very accepting kind of school. I was part of the Continuous Progress (CP) program – which is all about working together – so it’s not surprising that they’re taking steps to incorporate this community of people,” senior Carson Ryan said.

As a person of Native American descent himself, Ryan has capitalized on his heritage by working at Bdote Learning Center, a Dakota and Ojibwe language immersion school in Minneapolis. In addition to working at Bdote, Ryan is in the Native American Culture Club at EHS. “We get a grant by the state for Native American members and we typically spend that through providing more books for elementary schools, but we are trying to get more representation and treat it in a way that it is our right to spread awareness,” Ryan said.

Cultural developments from Highlands introduce steps to possible advancements district-wide as well. “Starting kids young and getting them exposed to races and cultures is necessary. Establishing that mindset early is definitely a big player when it comes to later years,” Ryan said. Additionally, his opinions indicate that the uncovering of discrepancies within minorities through education in schools is important for the creation of cultural efficacy, “The way that history books are written, it’s all in the eye of the beholder–so minority races that aren’t classic westerners–that history gets written from a different  perspective that often is overlooked,” Ryan said. Steps Highlands has taken towards cultural awareness shows that the changes within curriculums to promote cultural diversity don’t just have to happen through ink.

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About the Writer
Ellen Mi, staff writer

As a sophomore at Edina High School, there’s no doubt that Ellen Mi’s year will be filled with endless academic stress, all nighters, and consequently,...

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Highlands Elementary integrates Native American culture into gym classes