Mashpee Middle-High School will offer Wôpanâak, a language used by the Wampanoag Tribe, to 7th grade students this spring as part of language exploration.
“Just a phenomenal example of the relationship we’ve continued to build. It’s just a phenomenal thing,” Mashpee Middle-High School Principal Mark Balestracci said during the school committee meeting last week, March 17. “It’s really a great opportunity for all of our kids.”
For the rest of this year, a pilot 10-week version of this course called “Intro to Wôpanâak Language, Culture & History” will be offered for 7th graders.
Currently, language exploration for 7th graders includes three languages: French, Mandarin and Spanish. According to Mr. Balestracci, this fourth language could be offered as early as next fall for all 7th grade students.
This program, made possible by the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project (WLRP), will teach students the alphabet and also give cultural context.
“It’s a really exciting opportunity that I hope will be offered again in the future,” Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project Director Jennifer Weston said. “It’ll sort of be Wampanoag language appreciation with some cultural and historical background in there.”
Seventh grade was the last grade at MMHS that had not had any Wampanoag language course offerings. For 8th through 12th graders, Wampanoag language level 1, 2, 3 and 4 have been offered. These courses, which offer world language credit for the students, were feasible due to the grant WLRP received from the US Department of Education's Office of English Language Acquisition in 2018.
Eleanor "Toodie" Jackson-Coombs will teach the class for the 7th graders.