School Name: Bastion Elementary / Ècole Élémentaire du Bastion
School District: SD#83 North Okanagan-Shuswap
Inquiry Team Members: Shannon Murrells-Allaway, Teacher-librarian & project head: email@example.com; Candy Martel, also project head & grade 4 / 5 French Immersion teacher: firstname.lastname@example.org ; Jared King, vice-principal: email@example.com ; Geneviève Duclos, grade 4 / 5 French Immersion teacher: firstname.lastname@example.org ; Valerie Morin, grade 4 / 5 French Immersion teacher: email@example.com ; Sandra Eustache, SD83 Indigenous Inquiry Teacher: firstname.lastname@example.org ; Isabelle Larouche, Quebec author: email@example.com
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Intermediate (4-7)
Curricular Area(s): Arts Education, Language Arts – Literacy, Language Arts – Oral Language, Language Arts – Reading, Language Arts – Writing, Social Studies
Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Community-based learning, Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), First Peoples Principles of Learning, Indigenous pedagogy, Inquiry-based learning, Self-regulation, Social and emotional learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Creating a tri-lingual community collaborated Indigenous-like story-telling book (French, English, Secwepemc)
Scanning: In reading the “Four Key Questions …” and scanning and checking, this was not a project designed to touch base with students individually, but rather as a group. The teachers, however, did often discuss “Where are you going with your learning” and “How are you doing” as part of their introduction to the unit, and then formative reflection. The “where to next” question was part of the end-of-project group reflections of how the unit went but very brief due to June year-end. We made connections with community members and specifically local indigenous members and asked ourselves at the end of the project: “How can we continue to learn about our local, BC, national, and world indigenous cultures?”
First People’s Principles of Learning:
– The story-telling and story-creation unit included the following areas:
learning supported the well-being of our community and the land – our project aimed to bring local Indigenous people to our students to share Indigenous culture and stories, specifically about local animals and the context they live in.
– learning was reflexive, reflective, and relational – students were invited to blend Indigenous stories and culture they learned from our three guest speakers as well as from reading various Indigenous stories and then blending that with their own scaffolding of story-telling skills
– learning involved recognizing the consequences of one’s actions – by choosing various animal characters that represented basic human characteristics such as leadership, fear, greed, inquisitiveness, diplomacy, etc. the students reflected on common human interactions and how they fit into or did not fit into those common interactions
– learning involves generational roles and responsibilities – because some of the animal characters also represented older, wiser personalities, the students thus explored the wisdom an experienced or “elder” personality can bring to a context or situation
– learning recognizes the role of indigenous knowledge – the goal of the project was to learn about indigenous knowledge through our three guest speakers and reading indigenous stories
– learning is embedded in memory, history, and story – our guest speakers and the teachers discussed these principals with the students
-learning involves patience and time – this collaborative story writing project took most of the school year, and many brainstorming sessions, as well as draft after draft after draft of actual writing and then of creating the images: patience and time was discussed and experienced often!
– learning requires exploration of one’s identity – I’m assuming the students reflected on the animal characteristics and contemplated how they were similar or different to those personalities.
– learning involves recognizing that some knowledge is sacred and only shared with permission and/or in certain situations – we had some great discussions with students about our learning through the shared knowledge of our guest speakers, and how that knowledge and those stories were gifts, and that we had permission to use that knowledge to create our own stories. As adults in the project, we discussed cultural appropriation and how to navigate the goals of our story writing project in an ethical manner. I believe we accomplished that goal.
Focus: The students and teachers chose to pay particular attention to personalities associated with specific indigenous animals from the Secwepemc and Sioux cultures (our guest speakers’ backgrounds) and the style of indigneous stories. Our project goal was to have our students create a story style similar to an indigenous one whereby there are often personalities that need to experience change and growth, and that there is often a moral (learning opportunity) to a story.
Hunch: I would say that for three French Immersion classes with few Indigenous students in the class that the hunch process was about reflecting on the personality traits of the animals and looking at the similarities and differences of how humans in general relate to those characteristics, as well as how individual students connected or did not connect with those personality traits..
New Professional Learning: The team used the First Peoples’ Principles of Learning, parts of the 4 Key Questions for Scanning and Checking, and the Spirals of Inquiry. This was a strong framework to work from: it encouraged us to personalize the goals and content, and continue to make us and our students more reflexive and reflective learners.
Taking Action: The First Peoples’ Principles of Learning, the 4 Key Questions for Scanning and Checking, and the Spirals of Inquiry involved pedagogy we have always used to some extent as teaching professionals, but these guidelines made us explore more fully (or perhaps even new areas of teaching) pedagogy areas such as asking students what and why they are learning during the learning process, also the reflexive and reflective piece for students and making sure we took time to navigate this part of their learning and certainly continuing our learning through the lens of indigenous knowledge and principles.
Checking: The project goals were to experiment with and create an indigenous type story incorporating local animals as well as include local Secwepemc and Sioux indigenous type characteristics in the story. We aimed to have a tri-lingual story: French, English, and Secwepemc. We further wanted to connect our French Immersion students with some local community indigenous members to learn of their stories and culture. There were also language arts (the writing process) and art learning outcomes, as well as collaborative work goals. We didn’t work from a baseline and that initial versus post knowledge and skills would have been interesting to compare. We were very excited about our end product of the book with three class stories in it in three languages! We believe students did enrich their indigenous cultural knowledge as well as developed writing and collaboration skills.
I do believe we could have done a more formal reflective practice with the students during as well as at the project closure: “the 4 questions” could have been our guiding reflections. We verbally reflected with students on their connections at times, but I’m unsure if there was a formal process. While we did end on “Where to next” as the adult team members, I don’t know if we did that question with our students and that would have been a great question for all of us to explore. The project pushed into June which becomes a very demanding month for wrapping up projects, field trips, year-end ceremonies, etc., so other priorities began to push at staff and students. It would have been nice to formalize the reflective process. Overall, however, the project and experience appeared to be an amazing journey and we’re very proud of our end-product book.
Reflections/Advice:If other schools were wanting to do this project, it is a large undertaking and needs a full year to a year and a half to coordinate. You need a dedicated team of adults taking on various roles – coordinator(s), accountant, grant application writers, project designers, guest recruiters, etc.. You need time and flexibility for meetings and dedication to communication at all stages. Overall, I believe our team needed to formalize the reflexive /reflective process more and to have considered working from the “Four Key Questions that Matter.”