A California 4th grade class is making a difference for California’s social studies curriculum.

Tiffany Vandehoven’s class at Bishop Elementary in California recently collaborated with members of the Studies Weekly curriculum team to strengthen and amplify the voices of California’s indigenous tribes in Studies Weekly Social Studies.

Bishop Elementary

Bishop Elementary student, Waylan, left, holds up a draft of the new California curriculum.

Vandehoven reached out to Studies Weekly in March with letters from her students asking for more representation of Indigenous People in the California social studies content. One student, Waylan, explained that he is part Shoshone and Paiute and feels there should be more information about these tribes’ language, culture, and historical experience.

“I like that you include other tribes in Studies Weekly. I like that when I don’t have time to read, I can watch the videos.” Waylan said. “The one flaw that I want to bring to your attention is that I don’t see a lot about the Paiute tribe or Shoshone tribe who are both important parts of California’s history. I’d like Studies Weekly newspaper readers to learn how Paiute and Shoshone people lived peacefully for thousands of years.”

Studies Weekly’s chief curriculum architect, Noelle Carter, was inspired by the students’ letters and worked with Vandehoven to create an inquiry research project for the class.

“As a former teacher, I thought that this might be a great opportunity to give the class some real-world experience to make claims that they support with evidence and to take civic action to make changes for good,” Carter said. “Tiffany was great to work with as we set up the project.”

Gina Jones encouraged students to set positive goals and gifted them with journals.

The students set to work, researching California tribes. Local tribal leaders came to the class and helped the students connect their heritage to modern day. The leaders were pleased that the students were learning about their heritage in school, which hadn’t happened for these leaders.

“She had quite a few Native American students from a couple of different tribes in her classroom, so the project was very relevant, but I was also impressed that all students were invested in the project and in the heritage of their location,” Carter said.

Bishop Elementary, CA

Monte Bengochia talked about environmentalism caring for the earth.

Carter met with the class over a Zoom meeting so they could present their findings. Carter said she could tell Vandehoven is a great teacher by how organized and well-written the students’ essays were.

“Tiffany and I have followed up about topics, and currently her class is working on researching and writing,” Carter said.

The plan is to bring their drafts into Studies Weekly’s production process and add them to the online product, while giving FERPA-safe credit to her class for the work.

“I’m excited to see their writing, and I’m grateful to Tiffany for being the kind of teacher who would provide this kind of learning opportunity for her students,” Carter added. “While we did extensive research and contacted several local tribes in our work preparing the new California Studies Weekly publications, there are 111 federally recognized tribes in California, and we couldn’t possibly cover them all with depth. But thanks to Mrs. Vandehoven’s class, we’ll be able to include content on two or three more tribes, and most importantly, they are telling their own story. I’m grateful that we have a venue for their story to be heard.”

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