Harmony and Culture: A Day of Learning at Spanish Oaks Elementary

Submitted by lindsey.hughes on

In a corner of Spanish Oaks Elementary, a 3rd-grade classroom transformed into a vibrant tapestry of culture and unity yesterday, thanks to the inspiring efforts of Emily Soderborg and Brenda Beyal. They lead the Native American Curriculum Initiative (NACI) program under the BYU Arts Partnership, which has recently garnered another grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The NACI program is committed to collaborating with Native American tribes in Utah to create culturally appropriate lesson plans for teachers, ensuring that education resonates with Native American heritage and traditions.

The engaging lesson was a testament to the NACI program's dedication and impact. Emily Soderborg, a passionate educator hailing from BYU, led the class on a captivating journey through Native American traditions, leaving an indelible mark on the young hearts and minds of the students.

The lesson began with an exploration of Native American music, where students had the privilege of immersing themselves in the melodies of three distinct Native American songs. Emily Soderborg fostered a spirited discussion, encouraging students to share their thoughts on the songs' unique qualities. This allowed the students to uncover the beauty within diversity, a vital lesson in the NACI program's mission.

To deepen their connection to Native American culture, Brenda Beyal, a dedicated Nebo Title VI teacher, took the stage to teach the students various Navajo words. These words served as the building blocks for the Native American song they were about to learn. The classroom was abuzz with enthusiasm as students embraced this unique opportunity to connect with a rich cultural heritage.

At the heart of the lesson was a Native American song conveying a profound message: "walking in the beauty way." In Navajo culture, this concept encapsulates the path of kindness, gratitude, positive self-reflection, and peaceful coexistence. Emily guided the students in not only learning the song's words but also understanding the profound wisdom it carried.

What made this lesson truly exceptional was the chance for students to infuse their own experiences and emotions into the song. Seated in a circle, each student contributed their own unique lyrics, personalizing the collective melody. The result was a beautiful symphony of dreams, hopes, and aspirations woven into the Native American song.

The culmination of this cultural journey was an exhilarating round dance, led by Mrs. Beyal. The students and their teacher formed a circle, moving to the rhythm of the song, symbolizing the spirit of community and togetherness that transcends borders and generations.

In the space of a single class, Spanish Oaks Elementary proved itself to be a hub of holistic education, where learning extends beyond textbooks and conventional boundaries. This lesson not only educated students about Native American culture but allowed them to experience it in a deeply personal way, fostering an appreciation for diversity and shared traditions.

Ultimately, it was a day where the power of cultural exploration left smiles on faces and warmth in hearts, showing that learning can be an extraordinary journey that brings people closer together, one dance at a time. The NACI program, under the guidance of Emily Soderborg and Brenda Beyal, continues to play a vital role in bridging cultural gaps and enhancing education by offering teachers the tools they need to ensure their lessons are culturally appropriate and respectful of Native American heritage. Their dedication and efforts are a testament to the value of such programs in promoting cultural understanding and unity in our schools.