Educating Through an Indigenous Lens
Bdote Learning Center is a public charter school located in Minneapolis, MN. We are a year-round Dakota and Ojibwe language immersion school. We have a limited number of seats available in Ojibwe and Dakota 6/7. All other classes currently have wait lists. To be added to the wait lists or to enroll, please click on the admissions button.
Our students' learning is place-based and experiential. Students are immersed in rigorous, active, interdisciplinary learning projects, often involving learning outside of school walls. Curriculum content is tied to the geographical surroundings of the school, the local history, landscape, ecology, and Native languages and cultures.
We strive to develop a love of lifetime learning, language and culture, and to create a college preparatory path for all students.
We envisioned a language immersion, place-based charter school that would not only engage children, but their families, and other community members. We chose the name Bdote Learning Center because "Bdote" is the Dakota word for the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers (also called Pike Island at the Ft. Snelling state park) believed to be the origin place of Minnesota's first peoples. We also see it as a metaphor for the coming together of the best of Native and western knowledge.
The Vision of the Bdote Learning Center is that all students will develop a love of lifelong learning, language and cultural fluency, gain skills and education to determine their own future, and develop a genuine commitment to contribute back to their family, community and nation.
The Mission of Bdote Learning Center is to develop culturally aware, successful, high performing students by providing them with an academically rigorous education that is place-based, and rooted in Native language and culture of indigenous peoples.
We’ve had parents and community members ask us why they should send their children to an immersion program. We have heard some concerns from families that their students are not currently making the progress in English reading as other students at English only schools. Yes, this is probably true for most of our younger students. Research shows us that these lags in English writing and reading are only temporary. Our students will not only catch up with their peers at other schools, but outperform them. We are just starting to see the immersion pay off with the students who have completed their 4th year of immersion. In over 500 studies comparing English only schools to language immersion schools, after the lag period (grades 3-5) the students in immersion outperformed their English only peers in every single study.
1. Slow initial performance. Your child may initially learn to read and write English at a slower pace than students in single language schools. Parent involvement is essential at this stage to encourage English reading at home. Once this temporary stage has passed, most immersion students perform at or above grade level in both languages.
2. Homework help. Parents who do not speak the second language may feel frustrated at times because they don’t know exactly what their child is doing. If you are concerned about your child’s progress, do not hesitate to call and ask to have a conference with his or her teacher. The teachers are anxious to help you understand and participate in your child’s education.
3. Well-meaning friends and family. Well-meaning friends and family may be critical and unsupportive at first. You may be told that what you are doing is not in the best interest of your child. When people see that your child doesn’t forget his native language (Ojibwe or Dakota), does learn to read in English and does keep up with the neighborhood children, they will be assured that you made the right decision.
The earlier you can get children into immersion the better. Our young children’s brains are growing and forming neural connections. Children in immersion are being challenged constantly and are forming more brain pathways than children in English only classrooms. Once these pathways have formed they are there for life. These pathways help children connect information, use more information in making decisions, and set up a scaffolding to store and retrieve information better. (Lach, 1997; McKesson, 2013).
"The effect of learning a second language on first-language skills has been positive in all studies done.... [and] the loss of instructional time in English has never been shown to have negative effects on the achievement of the first language.” (Bournot-Trites & Tellowitz, 2002) In fact, immersion students match and surpass English program students’ performance by Grade 4 or 5 after first-language arts are introduced in the middle elementary years. (Turnbull, Hart & Lapkin, 2000).
Reviews of research studies found that immersion students met or exceeded English program students’ performance in mathematics and science, and national assessments found that at grades 6, 8, and 10, respectively, immersion students achieved at a significantly higher level than those in the regular program. (Bournot-Trites & Tellowitz, 2002; British Columbia Ministry of Education, 2000; Dube & MacFarlane, 1999; Department of Education, 2000; Turnbull, Hart & Lapkin, 2000.)
Immersion has cognitive benefits including mental flexibility, increased sensitivity to others, and increased ability to learn other languages. Immersion students are better able to solve complex problems and score significantly better in analysis, creativity,