David Hoy Elem SD#91 Nechako Lakes

School Name: David Hoy Elementary

School District: SD#91 Nechako Lakes

Inquiry Team Members: Anna Waddell awaddell@sd91.bc.ca
John Bennison jbennison@sd91.bc.ca
Eileen Bennison ebennison@sd91.bc.ca
Andrew Mulroy amulroy@sd91.bc.ca

Inquiry Team Contact Email: ebennison@sd91.bc.ca

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE

Grade Levels: Primary (K-3), Intermediate (4-7)

Curricular Area(s): Not applicable

Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Experiential learning, Land, Nature or Place-based learning, Social and emotional learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Identity and belonging.

Scanning: Learners are at the center of all we do. We all agreed that we did not use the four questions well, however, everything we did with learners was viewed through the 7 principles of learning from the OECD or the FNESC First Peoples Principles of Learning. Students who feel an emotional attachment to place (including people) tend to take more ownership over their learning and feel better about school. Learning is relational, and even with COVID there are many people in a school that students have a relationship with.

Focus: We have a very transient population and high rate of absenteeism. We were hoping to see students develop agency, voice, respect for each other, and the ability to share stories. We were hoping to make the educational experience valuable for learners. We were also hoping to make our school feel like a community. School is their “home away from home”. Also, we were really trying to tie the histories of all the communities together and create a common “human” experience.

– Covid broke the school into cohorts, so forming relationships was hard.
– Students come from three different communities, and this school is not geographically part of those communities. They feel no attachment to the building or town.
– We have noticed in the past that the students from differing communities fight each other (literally).
– A focus on academics and grade levels contributes to the disconnect for some students.

New Professional Learning: We feel that the work we did this year is transferable to any grade. This is very exciting for us, and our group is passionate when we talk. We liked how the inquiry was set up for us, and have a hunch that this structure would work in a classroom.

Much of our new learning was oral – we spent time listening to oral histories, making connections with community members and trying to meet elders and knowledge keepers.

Taking Action:
Sport playdays (cohort based): “Fun days” were held for basketball, soccer, handball, and Gucci ball. The focus was on sportsmanship and having fun. It provided students with a break from routine, stress relief, and a place to visit and deepen relationships (lots of board games were played when students were not “on the floor”).

Students were met outside, and welcomed into the building with informal conversations. Check-ins and discussions about life outside of school made students feel valued. Learners had a voice in the classroom and the sharing was increased. For example, students shared their journals with each other and shared about their projects (“Gallery walks” around learnings). Every student had many opportunities to share out during the day.

Place-based learning: Students were taken on fishing trips where they heard stories and chatted with an elder and a knowledge keeper. They also built shelters and set up outdoor dramatic play spaces that contribute to the formation of voice and social skills.

Pit house trips: Weekly trips to the pit house with knowledge keepers had students engaging with activities around identity; for example, students drew a picture of a place they like to visit in two seasons. It was the space and the informal sharing that was important in terms of building connections, not the projects themselves. The pit-house functioned as a “threshold” space.

Checking: We used anecdotal stories, journal writing and observations. We were satisfied with what we did – the pit house trips switched from “novelty” to a “way of being” grounded in indigeneity and history and also held current relevance. Historical interactions mean that we will continue to interact across cultures.

It was exciting to see students share their learning with confidence. We noticed children developing relationships and becoming a cohesive group.

Reflections/Advice: It is critical that the inquiry team is physically close – 3/5 of us teach in the same hallway and two of the team members live together, so all the important informal discussions happened naturally. The planned evening meetings, on the other hand, petered out quickly. One member of the team dropped out, and this is most likely due to proximity and their teaching assignment. “Environment is the third teacher” and this is an important consideration for teams, especially without PLC time within the school day.

Give yourself time – many of our results are only just being felt now, at the end of May.

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