MPS hosts annual Mde Maka Ska event

Minneapolis Public School students come to ashore after a canoe ride during the annual Mde Maka Ska event. Photo by Nate Gotlieb

Several hundred Minneapolis Public Schools middle school students learned about the importance of water last month at an event on the shores of Lake Calhoun.

The district hosted its annual Mde Maka Ska event May 26 with the goal of helping students understand the sacred nature of water, said Joe Rice, director of the Nawayee Center School in South Minneapolis.

Students participated in activities ranging from canoeing and fishing to water sampling and traditional Native American lacrosse. About 250 students from seven schools in the Minneapolis district participated in the event.

“It’s about being really involved in structural experiences that provide learning,” Rice said.

Rice said the event was a good opportunity for place-based education, something he said works best for students. Students got to experience buoyancy and other physics concepts by being in a canoe, for example, an experience they could reference in an academic setting.

The event had a special meaning this year, after the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board voted to change the name of Lake Calhoun to Bde Maka Ska, which means White Earth Lake in the Dakota language. Mde Maka Ska is another spelling but means the same thing.

The event was held in partnership with multiple organizations, which provided activities for students. They included Wilderness Inquiry, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre, Twin Cities Native Lacrosse and Homegrown Lacrosse, among others.