« Profile | Main


It’s Friday afternoon and the sun is beckoning them outside, but the 2nd graders in Peter Farell’s classroom remain hard at work.

“Gookooko’oo,? yells Farell. Immediately a girl with a broom runs to the center of the room where there is a pile of stuffed animals. She uses the broom to sweep a toy owl to the side of the room.

“Good,? says Farell. “Namadabin.?

The girl rushes back to her chair and sits down.

A witness to this scene might be puzzled by what just happened, but a little prior knowledge would clear up any confusion. The girl with the broom was playing a game called “Broom Sumo,? in which Farell calls out the name of an animal in Ojibwe and the student must sweep that animal from the center. Farell is an Ojibwe instructor working at Grant Language Arts and Magnet, a K-5 school in Duluth which uses language as a major part of its curriculum.

A walk through Grant’s halls alone would confirm that this isn’t your typical school. A sign near the door welcomes the visitor in three different languages: “Welcome, Boozhoo, Bienvenidos to Grant School.? Student artwork, it seems, lines every square inch of wall space, with drawings of cats labeled: “cat, gato, gaazhageno.? In fact, all signs at Grant are in three languages: English, Spanish, and Ojibwe.

“It’s a totally different culture of learning? said Farell.

For a half hour a day, students in all grades are instructed in either Spanish or Ojibwe. That emphasis on language was a major draw for Tony Hauschildt, who has a daughter in the 4th grade at Grant.

“I feel that it’s beneficial to learning,? said Hauschildt.

Hauschildt said that while she might not retain all of the words she learns, his daughter has taken away some important knowledge of other cultures.

“She knows quite a bit of Spanish and some words in Ojibwe, but I think the main thing is the cultural learning that’s taking place,? he said.

Grant, which is now in its first year in the Leonard Bernstein program, is a school that greatly encourages the use of art in all areas of learning. Because of this, students do a lot of drawings and paintings in their language classes. The Bernstein program, which was inspired by famous artist and scholar Leonard Bernstein, provides a model for schools that wish to use art integration extensively.

“You can integrate art into all subjects,? said Gary Berggren, the Leonard Bernstein director and retired principal of Grant.

Students in Farell’s Ojibwe class learn to make three-panel paintings, a tradition of the Ojibwe people. Their work lines the wall outside of Farell’s room. Farell also tells traditional Ojibwe stories, which, he said, the kids enjoy very much.

“Ojibwe stories are really entertaining,? he said. “The kids love them.?