Download an enrollment application here! NEST Enrollment Application 2023-24
Our mission is to directly support children’s natural acquisition of the Seneca language, so they can best develop and function as fully bilingual speakers. We do this through the following strategies:
● Increase time immersed in Seneca language interactions, with an emphasis on low ratio experiences with our highly conversational staff
● Encourage children’s engagement in Seneca language via accompanied play, storytelling, and use of songs throughout the day
● Foster the child’s reliance on Seneca language as their means of communication via personalized interactions, targeted skill-development, and specific language prompts
● Showcase our community of speakers, including staff, preverbal peers, and speaking peers.
● Directly develop each child’s fluent comprehension of Seneca language through wide-reaching experiences while immersed
● Maintain an environment that consistently encourages the emergence of new bilingual Seneca speech
Throughout our day, we provide an atmosphere that best supports the children’s developing language, inspired by the land, seasonal changes, and our ceremonial way of life. Within the Nest, we mirror parents’ intensive efforts at home by providing immersive care and accompaniment for their child throughout our weekday programming. Our work is meant to supplement a parent’s immersive Seneca language use with their child, offering access to a speaking community of advanced second language speakers and first-language peers, age-appropriate programming, songs, and storytelling.
Our Nest is now in its’ third year of operation. We have serviced a total of 11 children from 8 families since piloting in February 2021. We are now hosted within the Seneca Nation’s Early Childhood Learning Center, which allows us access to this facility’s amenities, but also access to the beautiful Clear Creek landscape and an abundance of wildlife to witness throughout our daily excursions.
The child’s primary caregiver is the first and most important speaker in his/her child’s life.We expect this caregiver to be conversational, and to lean on their Seneca speech primarily, if not exclusively, throughout interactions with their child. In other words, this primary caregiver should be using the language throughout routine tasks as well as in meaningful interactions, including new experiences, consoling, responding to difficult behavior.
Whitney Nephew, “Yeda:ke’s”
Whitney Nephew, “Yeda:ke’s” (they call her), serves as an Immersed Learning Lead Facilitator. Her father is Seneca Deer clan, through the Seneca-Cayuga of Oklahoma rolls. She resides with the Cattaraugus community with her partner and daughter, now age 7. “Yeda:ke’s” studied with Deadiwënöhsnye’s Gëjohgwa’ Immersion, beginning in 2016, and continued there through years of advanced language study. She is certified in TESOL for Children. Her passion is her immersed relationship with her daughter Mira, who is now a fully bilingual speaker. She is energized by the families who have also created immersive homes, and paying it forward to those who will soon be our youngest speaking peers in the community. “Yeda:ke’s” is new to traditional singing, but loves using the language in song form, including making new songs and leading immersive storytelling.
Sara Droney, “Awëö'”
Sara Droney, “Awëö'” (they call her), serves as an Immersed Learning Lead Facilitator. Her father is Seneca Wolf clan. She resides with the Allegany community with her partner and two children, ages 10 and 1.
“Awëö'” has served as a Language Apprentice with the Allegany Language program in 2016, while also pursuing constant, intensive language study as a personal endeavor for several years. She has worked with the Faithkeepers’ School at Jo:negano:h, where she achieved Montessori certification. She is passionate about maintaining a language intensive home life for her older son, Iowa, while now also parenting exclusively in Seneca language for her youngest son, Oren. Awëö’ lends her creative vision, resourcefulness, and highly detailed language to enriching all our play, adventures, songs and stories.
Barbara Cooke, Geñhyuweñnuhna’
Barbara Cooke, Geñhweñnuhna’ niyagohsëno’dëh (is her clan name), or “Nuhna'” as our kids call her, serves as our Nest Coordinator. She is Onondaga Deer clan. She resides with the Cattaraugus community with her partner, their 3 kids, and now awaiting one more!
Nuhna’ is a highly experienced early childhood educator with who has worked in various OCFS settings and with a wide age range. Early in her career she worked closely with first-language elders, and has studied both Seneca and Onondaga languages. She has served as Cultural Coordinator at the ECLC, and is especially skilled in sharing social songs and dances with our kids, while also bringing staff along in this skillset. Nuhna’ joined our team soon after our pilot months, and has been integral in executing our vision and in leading our staff’s professional growth.