At the Skokomish reservation in Washington State, Sally Brownfield and her eighth-grade students study the literature and issues related to the Indian boarding school program through community involvement and self-examination. Brownfield begins with her students' questions and supports them through a cycle of investigation, discussion, presentation, and reflection as they seek answers. The students use Shirley Sterling's novel My Name Is Seepeetza and the poetry of Laura Tohe as lenses through which to explore topics of their choosing. The class visits the Skokomish Tribal Center to interview tribal elders about the impact of the residential boarding program on the community. Author Shirley Sterling visits the class and answers student questions related to her novel, her life, and their research topics.
As Brownfield's students uncover a subject that has long been painful in the Native American community, they write, talk, and work together to construct new knowledge -- and reflect on how their discoveries change them. Teacher educator Jerome Harste notes that Brownfield's approach encourages students to use what they learn "to take action and begin to position themselves differently in the world -- to make a difference."