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Akii-gikinoo’amaading is an independent charter school authorized by the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe College and operated by the Waadookodaading Ojibwe Language Institute. The school is offering an innovative Project Based Learning (PBL) program for students in grades 6-12 with a foundation in Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). Academically, Akii-gikinoo’amaading will offer a learning pathway that runs from middle school through high school and will teach students how to care for and protect our Earth through student-initiated Project Based Learning. The school will work closely with parents and students to ensure each child accelerates at their own pace once a competency is demonstrated, not lock-step by grade level based on chronological age, to avoid boredom or frustration. It will also meet the unique educational needs of each child, particularly native learners who continue to struggle in public schools where as many as half fail to graduate each year. It will also engage families and extended families in traditional seasonal activities like harvesting wild rice and making maple syrup through seasonal camps held at various times, including weekends, throughout the year. With the help of the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe College and Natural Resource industry partners such as the Lac Courte Oreilles Conservation Department and Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, Akii-gikinoo’amaading will provide opportunities for students to earn college credits while still in high school, then transition seamlessly into summer environmental and language camps that function as early colleges. It is a format first introduced by the Gates Foundation and recognized by the Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse as one of the most effective ways of helping young learners be successful in higher education and to advance into well-paying professions. Each week, students will participate in field practicums where they will learn through field work how environmental sustainability functions in the workplace as a growing economy rated as one of the “hot spots” for future employment. This is particularly true for LCO Conservation and GLIFWC, which are charged with overseeing and managing more than 76,465 acres of tribal lands and more than 62 million acres across ceded lands of northern Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan. As noted by GLIFWC Director Mic Isham in his letter of support of Akii-gikinoo’amaading, “In addition to 71 full-time positions, GLIFWC hired 177 limited-term (seasonal) employees in 2016 to conduct electrofishing surveys, control purple loosestrife, undertake fall Lake Superior fish assessments and monitor spring spearfishing and netting harvests. It is becoming increasingly difficult to fill limited-term positions as older Native American workers retire.”

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