The Cree Classroom here in Montreal was fund-raised for in December of 2013, with enormous and rapid success. After Indiegogo took their 5% cut, we raised $5747.50! Many thanks again to every contributor who has supported this project and to Manitobah Mukluks who generously provided the goodies we used to entice contributions!
The first Cree Classroom session ran from January to June, and I’d like to take a quick moment to thank all of the learners who enrolled. What a seriously amazing group! The entire experience has been really incredible and every person brought something important and beautiful to the classroom. Language learning is inherently collaborative, and that was absolutely how our first session went. tâpwê miywâsin.
We purchased a SMARTBoard for use in the classroom, along with less fancy things like tables, chairs, tea (a must!) and materials, as well as setting up an initial website to support learners. A little less than $1000 remains held in reserve for material needs as they come up. The plan was after the initial fundraising, the Cree Classroom needs to be totally self-sufficient. This cannot be a big budget operation. We are trying to create something here that can be used in other areas at low expense so we never again need to rely on government or industry to hold the purse-strings of the vital work of bringing our languages to health!
No flash in the pan, the Cree Classroom is ready to begin taking registrations for a new beginner session which will run from September to December! In addition, there will be an intermediate course for the graduates of the first session.
The goal of the Cree Classroom is not simply to set up a single classroom with a few courses here and there. The goal is nothing less than total global domination for the Cree language! MUAHAHAHAHAHAAHAH!
Ok maybe not, but the more achievable goals are still pretty great. The goal is really to build a little bit more each session. Learning Cree is not like learning French or Spanish. There are very limited opportunities to practice your skills in everyday life situations, and the learning curve is incredibly steep. We will not produce truly fluent speakers immediately and it is very important to keep that fact firmly in front of our eyes to avoid giving up. The Cree Classroom is intended to create adult speakers who are fluent enough to begin facilitating an immersive experience either with other adult learners, or with children and their families. In this way we can build sustainable language involvement.
The last session was a ‘test run’ in terms of which materials were used and created, and how much could be crammed into the time we had. Materials were not shared online last session. This fall session will see us sharing those materials (including student-created materials) online after each session. Essentially you will be able to ‘follow along’ with us online, though I caution that such isolated learning is much less successful. Nonetheless, time and space are real impediments and there is no reason to not make the materials available to those who want them.
The growth is modest, but I feel it is sustainable, which is something I believe is key in these kinds of exhausting projects. To recap on what will be added to our starting point of a semester long beginner’s session for adults:
- Lesson materials will be made available online after each class (so the complete course will not be available all at once) so that learners can access them at a distance.
- There will be support provided to online learners via a forum. How extensive this support will be this fall session is not known yet. We’ll be ‘test running’ all of this too.
- The sâkihitowin learning site will be fixed up a bit to make it more accessible…right now it’s functional, but not great.
- There will be a semester long intermediate course open to those learners who have completed the beginners course.
My hope is that come January, there will be new additions and improvements made to the program. A further goal is to create an immersive experience for children during the summer of 2015 with the help of willing learners. That will of course depend on whether we manage to keep learners from moving back to the Prairies too soon 🙂
Before I send you to the beginner course information page, I want to clarify that this project cannot and is not intended to ‘pay the bills’, meaning the one teacher involved (me) is also teaching full time elsewhere. As much as I would love to have multiple sessions a week, the reality is there can only be one beginner and one intermediate session per semester. This reality is reflected in some of the conditions on registration.
Class sizes are restricted to a maximum of 10 learners to maximize the time each learner can work with the materials in a collaborative setting. Further, priority is given to learners for whom Cree is one of their traditional languages.
Registration for the intermediate session will not be open, but rather will be offered directly to those who have completed the beginner’s session.