A day in Pierre, South Dakota

St. Joseph’s fourth graders took their class trip to Pierre, South Dakota.  Each year, Pierre puts on a South Dakota History Adventure with a grant from the South Dakota Humanities Council.  In the past, we have gone to the Casey Tibbs Museum and the Buffalo Interpretive Center operated by the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe. This year, the trip’s focus was on water.

After leaving St. Joseph’s Indian School and making the 85 mile trip to Pierre, we began our day on the river.  We were the first boat ride on the Missouri for the day! It was a bit chilly, but fun.  Our guide talked about tributaries, the change of the river since the 2011 flood, and pointed out different landscapes along the way.  In years past, we have had it rain (and even spit snow) so sunshine was good, despite the chill.  For a few of the Lakota boys and girls, it was their first boat ride, which always makes the day more special!

St. Joseph’s fourth graders spent a day in Pierre, South Dakota.
The day began with a boat ride. For some, it was their first!

From the boat, we did outdoor activities.  Our class was split into two groups.  My group got to look in water pulled from the river for bugs!  The students used spoons and a tiny syringe.  They found worms, a snail, and many other bugs on her list.  They concluded that the water they pulled the samples from was not healthy water because the bugs that live there are the ones that can live in unhealthy water.  The other group hiked along looking for things in nature that depend on water.  They got to use magnifying glasses and then wrote about what they saw.

Our third activity was the Planetarium at the Pierre Discovery Center. Afterwards, it was Pizza Ranch pizza in the park.  Again, sitting in the sunshine was a real treat!

After lunch, our last event of the day was the Cultural Heritage Museum. After an activity about landscapes, we had free time to look around the museum. Students could milk a cow, ride a train, listen on an old operator station, or view the many displays.  It was hard to round them up to leave!

St. Joseph’s students learned about water and everything that depends on it during their trip to Pierre, South Dakota.
Students hiked along the Missouri River, using magnifying glasses to spy bugs that rely on water.

Most slept all the way home.  It was a great day, with lots of activities and fun!

The power of encouragement

St. Joseph’s Indian School recently had its first ever Encouragement Day!  Staff members gave me names of adults at St. Joseph’s that may need some encouragement.  St. Joseph’s teachers then chose from that list of people to have the Lakota students make them cards.  Teachers explained that encouragement can take place at any time.  Students or adults then delivered the cards or put them in the mail.

The Lakota children practice encouraging one another at St. Joseph’s Indian School.
Sometimes a little encouragement is all you need!

Encouraging others has been my own personal goal the last couple of years.  I enjoy sending cards or delivering goodies without signing my name.  We had the student’s sign their names this time, but we also talked about doing nice things just because we want people to talk about how nice we are.  Sometimes, anonymous goes a long way!

Some of our cards went to people whose troubles we knew about: cancer, illness, death of family member, depression, etc. But many were just a name.  Teachers talked to their students about the idea that sometimes it’s nice just to be told to have a nice day or someone is thinking of you.

I also told my class that a smile goes a long, long way in making people feel good.

My goal is to encourage them to look around and be aware of people that need compassion.  We don’t always need to know what is going on in their lives; we just need to know that we can show them kindness!

I am hoping that this can be an annual event at our school.  I also hope that teachers show their students how to encourage others on a daily basis.  What a better world it would be if we all encouraged instead of discouraged each other!

I Thess. 5:11 says “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

Lakota Students Give To Others

The Lakota children practice generosity by giving food to the poor.
St. Joseph’s fourth and fifth graders delivered food and toiletries to St. James to share with those in need.

During Catholic Schools Week in January, St. Joseph’s fourth and fifth grade students collected food and toiletries for St. James Catholic Church.  The church has a pantry that is open to the Chamberlain community.  Tubs were placed around campus to collect a variety of useful items.  Many students also brought items they picked up.

At the end of the week, all fourth and fifth graders went to St. James to deliver the goods in person.  We collected four tubs of toiletries and food items!

We got to see the pantry and Fr. Guy explained to the students how it works.  Fr. Guy was very grateful for the donation.  St. Joseph’s students were excited about the project and hope to do it again sometime.

Statistics tell us we feel happier or better about ourselves when we are able to give to others.  I feel projects like these give our Native American students the opportunities to get such a feeling.  Many were excited to go with their houseparents or counselors to pick out items to put in the tubs.

Fr. Guy’s excitement about our gifts made it even better!

I hope each of you who are benefactors feel the same joy in giving to the Lakota (Sioux) children.  Like Fr. Guy, we are very thankful and I hope you get a sense of how excited we are by your generosity.  In this season that expresses the kindest and biggest gift of all, Christ’s sacrifice, may we all be motivated to give of ourselves for others.

Christmas blessings for the Lakota children

The Lakota boys and girls were blessed to receive wonderful Christmas gifts.
No matter how old they are, the Lakota boys and girls are so excited to receive Christmas presents!

Christmas continues into January at St. Joseph’s!  The excitement gets to linger for at least a week after break, extending the students’ excitement about presents to come.  It’s always fun to experience the Christmas holiday through the eyes of a child. No matter how old they are, or how much they may try to hide it, they are excited!  The first week after break brings excitement and anticipation for Sunday’s big event!

If there is one thing I would wish for in life, it would be that all kids would wake up to at least one present on Christmas Day. 

I no longer ask my students what they got for Christmas when they come back… I haven’t for years.  It breaks my heart that some experience no family time, or no gifts for this holiday.

It’s so exciting for our students that they have a Christmas to return to and presents to put the sparkle in their eyes!

Over the years, Christmas has changed at St. Joseph’s, not just the date.  I remember when I first started working at St. Joseph’s, we looked through used toys to try and find enough to give each of the kids a present.

Sometimes, it was a real stretch.

Many times, the toys had someone else’s name on it.  Often, the students were given games with missing pieces. Everyone got socks and gloves and were very happy to receive those items.

I remember one year my dad arranged for a company to send Nerf footballs for all the boys.  For the girls he made each their own tablets with their names printed on them (he owned a print shop)!  It was something new and exciting.

The Lakota children are so excited to open their gifts!
Ethan peeks into his gift a little early.

Thanks to very generous donors, Christmas gifts are awesome and definitely appreciated.

After the celebration, kids come to school sporting a new sweatshirt or talking about different toys they received.  We are blessed to have great donors!  One home got rollerblades and went skating Sunday afternoon.  They had great stories and, more importantly, great smiles!

This is a time I often spend reflecting on the true blessings I have.  Sometimes we forget how good we really have it.  I hope part of Christmas at St. Joseph’s and everywhere helps you reflect on what’s important too.  I have too many to name here, but my granddaughter, children, husband, job, relationship with God, and living in America would top my list!

May the New Year bring you peace and God’s blessings!  May the excitement of a new toy from your childhood spread into the joy of giving and sharing this New Year.

Guest Blogger: Peggy

Hello everyone, my name is Peggy, St. Joseph’s Indian School’s 4th grade teacher!

Second quarter is well underway!  Thanksgiving Break is now beginning and it won’t be long until we are into the Christmas season.  Maybe it is all the good weather, but the year has really seemed to fly!

hoop-dancing-SJISI have included pictures of our Native American students at St. Joseph’s Indian School’s powwow.  That was held in September, but it is a time always on their minds.  They enjoy knowing about and participating in events related to the Lakota (Sioux) culture.  On Native American Day, we did many activities to promote the culture.  In my class, we listened to storytellers on YouTube.

In Science, we have Lakota words that go with the unit we are studying.  It’s always nice to tie the two things together.  It’s fun when students come in using the Lakota words.  One time we were studying frogs, and the students came running in saying they had found a gnaska’ on the playground!

In they came with a dead frog in a sandwich bag …  I tried to display it, but the smell was too much! I was thrilled that they had used the Lakota word instead of the English word.  Right now we are studying weather.  In South Dakota, Thanksgiving brings us osni’  cold!

SJIS-powwowToday before the students left, we celebrated a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.  We read the story, watched the video and then students were brought into a room that was set up like the actual dinner.  We had pretzels, popcorn, toast and jelly beans!  Some of the students quoted the story asking,

“What blockhead made this?”

It was a good laugh!  It was nice to see the students sitting around, relaxing and visiting with each other.

Academics continue.  We are well into multiplication.  For some it is an easy transition from addition, but for others there is a real struggle.  We continue to work and find ways for all students to feel success.  In science, we are working on weather and soon will study the planets.  Reading continues to work with fluency and comprehension.

I hope you had a blessed Thanksgiving and are anticipating celebrating Christ’s birth in the season ahead!

4th Grade Teacher

Guest Blogger: Peggy

Greetings!  I am Peggy and I am a fourth grade teacher.  I have worked at St. Joseph’s Indian School for about 32 years.  I started in the dorms and, after three years in the dorms, I moved to the school.   I have seen a lot of changes in my years here.  These changes have made life and education for the students much better.

When I first came, we had 40-60 kids in a dorm setting.  Now, each of St. Joseph’s 19 homes has 12 students.  Not only does this make things easier to handle, but more time is spent meeting the students’ needs.  I remember my first Christmas here; we had to really scrape to find enough toys to give the kids even one gift.  Many were missing pieces, but the kids were appreciative.  Now, our benefactors bless the children with many nice things all year long.  I am always amazed by the generous gifts we receive.

Our classrooms also used to be 25 students and up.  We are now blessed, even a little spoiled, to have 12 students per classroom.  This helps us work with the student’s individual needs.  There are times I feel overwhelmed by 12 students, but quickly remind myself how it used to be.  State and Federal standards have changed a lot about the way we teach.  While at times it is frustrating, I know that following these standards will give our students the education they need to compete in our ever-changing world.

When I first arrived, my living quarters were on campus in what is now the Health Center.  The Lakota Homes were an empty field, and classes were held in what is now the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center.  Sometimes, I am amazed at all the changes in my lifetime here!  One memory of my first year is having to pick sand burrs out of the football field on our time off.  I remind fellow employees that there are still a few of us here that did that, and they need to thank us!  🙂

Each day, I have students begin by writing in their journals.  They are asked to write at least two things they are thankful for.  There are days that it is hard for all of us, but it shouldn’t be.  My classroom faces the Missouri River.  I remind them; we can look out our window and have plenty to be thankful for.  Not everyone is blessed to have such beauty in their sight every day.  I want the students to be able to see good in every day, no matter what they are facing.  Many times, it a good lesson for this teacher to remember as well!  My class has done a very good job at with their thankful journals this year.

The fourth and fifth graders got a new Science series this year, called Science Fusion.  I am excited to work with this new and updated Science series.  It blends so well with the skills we are teaching in Math and Reading!  I have always found that fourth graders really like Science.  Hopefully with this new series, we can keep that excitement alive.

I hope everyone is enjoying fall.  It’s my favorite time of year.  I miss the Ohio falls and colors, but have found South Dakota to have their own colors and beauty.  I hope, as with my students, you can find things in your everyday lives to be thankful for.