Dexter Students Learn About Indigenous Peoples and In Turn, Social Justice

Clara Schriemer, a graduate student at University of Michigan, read to Cornerstone second-graders on Nov. 30, as part of a visit to the school by the Ginsberg Center.
photo by Lonnie Huhman

By Lonnie Huhman,,

Through its social justice committee, Dexter’s Cornerstone Elementary School has committed to helping its students understand their world in a deeper way.

Cornerstone principal Craig McCalla said the school for young fives to second-grade students has a “social justice committee that is committed to providing information to students about those around us in our community and world.”

In November and into December, the school is celebrating Indigenous Peoples. This has given the committee, made up of teachers, the school social worker and McCalla, a chance to expand upon what was introduced last year by the committee, which was the “Hall of Heroes,” display. It honors different people on a rotational basis with this month being a group of Native Americans, including astronaut John Herrington.

“We wanted to go a little bit deeper this year and build upon our Hall of Heroes by having assemblies and grade level appropriate text being read in each classroom,” McCalla said on Nov. 30.

Late last month the school had an assembly with guest speaker, Marie Schuyler-Dreaver, reading, “The Water Walker,” by Joanne Robertson, and then spent some showing the students some traditional Ojibwa items.

The committee created book lessons that teachers are sharing in the classroom for each grade level while McCalla will lead another assembly this month.

On Nov. 30, University of Michigan students from the Edward Ginsberg Center visited the school to read, “Thunder Boy Jr.,” by Sherman Alexie.

The book is described on Google Books as “Thunder Boy Jr. wants a normal name…one that’s all his own. Dad is known as big Thunder, but little thunder doesn’t want to share a name. He wants a name that celebrates something cool he’s done like Touch the Clouds, Not Afraid of Ten Thousand Teeth, or Full of Wonder. But just when Little Thunder thinks all hope is lost, dad picks the best name…Lightning! Their love will be loud and bright, and together they will light up the sky.”

U of M graduate student Clara Schriemer read to a group of second-graders and asked questions of the students throughout the story, such as, what would you do if you had similar feelings? One moment struck her was when she asked what is normal and one student answered by saying that they are all unique.

“I loved it,” Schriemer said afterward. “It’s a great story and I got some good feedback from the kids.”

The next assembly will have McCalla reading “Goodnight World, Animals of the Native Northwest” and “The Great Ball Game, A Muskogee Story.” This will be an assembly that will have a lot of discussion between the students and with McCalla.

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