A group of 16 youngsters recently found common bonds in a different kind of classroom.
They sat on blankets atop a dirt and grass floor, and a buffalo skin lay at the center. Above them, the walls of a canvas tipi rose about 20 feet above their heads, sheltering them from the wind in the backyard of the Lenox Community Center.
There, Native American culture educator and filmmaker Fidel Moreno shared with students songs, dance, stories, history and traditions through a Healing Winds program for children.
The students, most younger than 10, were attentive and engaged.
"Where do you come from?" Mor eno asked the youngsters of their ancestry.
Ireland, Africa, Russia and the United States were among the replies.
"We all come from a certain place. We all have something special that we’re connected to. Do you know what that is?" asked Moreno.
"Culture," said Samantha Taxter.
"And what else do we share?" said Moreno.
"History passed down from family," student Griffin Kiefer said.
Together, the group learned about Lakota traditions and a brief history of tribes in the northeast region. They played music, offered blessings, and were also able to explore an exhibit of artifacts -- from foods to bead work to red hawk and hummingbird feathers.
"It’s a great diversity and cultural literacy activity with a strong anti-bullying message," said Kim Graham, director of the Lenox Community Center.
"It’s a great program," said Jeff Lynch, who accompanied his son, Ray, to the event.
Students said the program also made an impression on them.
"I think it’s very important because you get to learn about culture and people," said Taxter.
"And how to respect things," Aali yah Vargas add ed.