I. General Information

School Name: Burnaby North

School District: SD#41 Burnaby

Inquiry Team Members: Maria Nikolidakis maria.nikolidakis@burnabyschools.ca
Katie Coughlin katie.coughlin@burnabyschools.ca

Inquiry Team Contact Email: maria.nikolidakis@burnabyschools.ca

II. Inquiry Project Information

Grade Levels Addressed Through Inquiry: Secondary (8-12)

Curricular Areas Addressed: Language Arts – Oral Language, Language Arts – Writing, Science, Social Studies

Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), First Peoples Principles of Learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Cross curricular learning that centers Indigenous land based pedagogy.

III. Spirals of Inquiry Details

Scanning: We mostly relied on the principles of learning and learner responses to design our year. Both through casual conversations in our Indigenous Room and through formal discussions with students, we were able to identify common threads. Our Indigenous students are diverse and have many needs and desires in their learning. Some feel connected to school curriculum, others do not care at all. One thread that consistently came up, however, was a desire to learn more about their culture and connect to the land. They also named goals in university – attending post secondary and studying sciences, humanities, and social-sciences was a major thread in ‘where they are going.’ In collaboration with a Biology 12 class and English 12 class, we designed a cross curricular experience that brought together scientific inquiry, self-reflection, and connectedness to the land. It demonstrated to students that learning does not need to be a silo – we can expand our learning in a multi-literate approach.

Focus: Our focus on a cross-curricular land-based program was a clear choice after reviewing student needs and desires. After 2 years of COVID, they were desperate for a feeling of community and connectedness, but also wanted to maintain an academic focus. This activity allowed us to incorporate core-competencies and curricular competencies while centering First People’s Principles of Learning.

Hunch: First, COVID was, and to many extents still is, the core of what is impacting students in our school. They lost connection and community for over 2 years, resulting in very little buy-in, motivation, and desire to connect to academic life. Despite this, many of our learners still have goals of attending university and taking academic courses like Physics and Biology. COVID also impacted their sense of community in schools and connection to other learners.

Second, there is always a desire for more Indigenous content for Indigenous students. Teachers are trying, and curriculum is attempting to catch up with the needs of students, but Indigenous students want more than just curriculum. They consistently want Indigenous culture tied into their learning.

New Professional Learning: We explored cross curricular learning – learning that incorporated both curricular competencies and core competencies for science, language arts, and Indigenous ways of knowing.

Collaboration time was the most helpful – teachers needed to meet and brainstorm in order to offer students a comprehensive, fun, and engaging experience.

Taking Action: We wanted to focus on being on the land and having fun. We knew that students hadn’t had a chance to go on a field trip in a long time due to COVID, so knew that a land-based experience would be an amazing trip.

We then wanted to collaborate on curriculum – we wanted to demonstrate to students and learning is embedded in everything we do. We went through Biology 11 and 12 competencies and English 10-12 competencies and identified big questions and common themes. Based on these themes, we planned activities that would occur on the land and that would engage the curiosity and reflection of students. This included exploring the shoreline, using all of their senses to ask questions about sea-life, noticing the landscape and how it might have changed since colonization, etc.

As a cross curricular team, we met many times leading up to our days on the land. All of the participating teachers designed their units prior to the day to tie into learning that would occur. For example, in Biology, they were learning about tidal zones and the impact of industry on shell fish.

Checking: This was hopefully one of many cross curricular experiences that we can offer students. It was very successful – we had students fully engaged in the activities, curious and excited to be exploring the land around them and asking questions, reflecting on where they are today and the history of the land they are on. Is it enough, no. Students need activities like this much more than what we can currently offer. However, it did noticeably build community among our students.

Reflections/Advice: We learned that kids really just want to connect and have fun together. We are still learning the extent to which COVID has affected our Indigenous students, but I know that it is much more than what we are seeing on the surface. We also learned that students are capable and wanting Indigenous ways of knowing to be incorporated in a seamless way, not a tokenizing way, into their learning.