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During the pandemic, we were concerned about Indigenous communities’ high rates of diseases and conditions that make them more susceptible to severe cases of COVID-19. Dissatisfied with the local school system’s precautions, we seized the opportunity to convene a small group of students in a space created by their community, for their community. The first year, OSLEC students participated in their district’s remote learning, which did not meet their needs. However, that year allowed us the time refine our mission, develop our own in-house curriculum, and establish ourselves as a homeschool cooperative.
Learners at playground posing

The beginning of oselc

OSELC opened our doors in the Spring of 2021 with seed money from personal funds and a small grant from an anonymous donor. We acquired 2,000 square foot space through the mission and support of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, which renovated with help from the students, their families, community, and church volunteers. As renovations were underway, we collaborated with a local group and participated in a community garden, bringing the majority of student learning outdoors, with a focus on traditional plant knowledge, food sovereignty, and community outreach.

What makes us special

OSELC affirms Indigenous history and culture by creating learning experiences grounded in Indigenous ways of knowing and being and giving students opportunities to engage in hands-on learning in the community grounded in storytelling. Our approach to learning is grounded in “relative-ships” that centralizes Indigenous culture. OSELC also promotes Indigenous-affirming education beyond its school walls. We offer professional and curriculum development to schools and districts to help educators embed culturally responsive practices and experiences into their contexts. We developed and utilize a framework that supports educators in four areas:

Learner in garden with teacher

Indigenous Cultural Knowledge, Practices, and Resources

Learners listening to instruction in classroom

Cultural Equity and Capacity

Elder educator instructing

Indigenous Cultural Centralization in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment

Learners in woods

Educator Leadership

In many contexts, the term “relationships” has become an educational buzzword; overused, under-prioritized, and at times, inauthentic. “Relative-ship” is a call-back to traditional Indigenous kinship systems and invites school communities to embody being good relatives as an action, rather than a performative concept.

What makes us extraordinary

“There is a degree of flexibility and accommodation. How are we expected to have learners be able to be in a space where they can learn if their amygdala is overstimulated? Or if they are really tired or hungry? That component of being able to provide the vocabulary and the support. Get your needs met, have your needs met, that's a priority, and now we're ready.”