BHSU faculty create children's book that teaches native culture, sciences

Author: BHSU Communications/Tuesday, May 26, 2015/Categories: 2015



   

   

   

       

           

       

       

           

           Liz Fayer, coordinator of PROJECT Second at Black Hills State University, and Joanna Jones, former BHSU reading specialist and professor, wrote "Circle Boy: Bringing Black Elk&rsquos Storytelling to Life," with collaboration from Jace DeCory, assistant professor of history and American Indian Studies at BHSU. The children&rsquos book tells the story of a young Lakota boy who has a deep connection with nature and science.

            

       

   



Black Hills State University faculty are working to share the Lakota history across South Dakota through a new children&rsquos book.

Liz Fayer, coordinator of PROJECT Second at BHSU, and Joanna Jones, former BHSU reading specialist and professor, wrote "Circle Boy: Bringing Black Elk&rsquos Storytelling to Life," with collaboration from Jace DeCory, assistant professor of history and American Indian Studies at BHSU.

The book tells the story of a young Native American boy that has a deep connection with nature and uses his observation tools to save his village from a severe storm. Although a fictional tale, the story is based on Black Elk, a prominent Oglala Leader (1863-1950), who often shared stories about the Lakota history, culture and wisdom.

Fayer read "Black Elk Speaks," a book that tells Black Elk&rsquos stories, 15 years ago and was amazed by his storytelling abilities and the first-hand account Black Elk provided of the Lakota culture. After reading the book, Fayer drew and painted pictures that corresponded to snippets of the book she enjoyed. From there, Fayer had the idea of developing a book based on Black Elk&rsquos history.  

"I wanted to bring Black Elk&rsquos storytelling to life for kids," she said.

Fayer approached Jones, who was a colleague at the time, and the two decided to write a children&rsquos book that taught native science and the American Indian culture of western South Dakota.

"Being a science person, to me, it was so amazing to read Black Elk&rsquos descriptions, understanding and connection to nature," Fayer said. "It was neat how much he used it in his daily life."

The book highlights observational science, or the ability to recognize natural patterns, which was a key tool to the American Indians.

"This book celebrates the science that has been a part of the native world for many more years than we&rsquove been writing about it," Jones added.

The title, "Circle Boy," evolved from the Lakota belief that the power of the world works in a circle. In the story, the young boy encounters circles each day in nature through the moon, sun, lake and stars. Through his knowledge he has about the power of circles the boy makes a prediction that the severe storm in the shape of a circle, a tornado, would endanger his village.

Quotes from "Black Elk Speaks" are included on each page, tying in the fictional tale to the events that Black Elk lived. Lakota words are sprinkled throughout the passages, as well, to teach students the language of the time period.

"This gives readers an understanding of the language and the young man in the book," Jones said. "They can see what he would have sounded like and what words he would have used."

DeCory praised Fayer&rsquos and Jones&rsquo work, adding that there is a need for more American Indian history in the school curriculums.

"This is about Black Elk, but it&rsquos bigger than Black Elk," DeCory said. "This could have been any tribal leader. We&rsquore talking about a culture and a history of native people."

Fayer and Jones wrote a teacher&rsquos manual to accompany the book that is geared toward students in the third through fifth grades. The manual is filled with extra activities that link Native American culture and history to language arts and science curriculums today.

Jones will travel to schools throughout western South Dakota to teach the book to elementary students. Already, she&rsquos worked with junior high students, explaining the process of writing and publishing a children&rsquos book.

To schedule a presentation with Joanna Jones, email DrJ@JonesLiterature.com. Copies of the book and teacher&rsquos manual can be purchased at www.piecesoflearning.com.
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