Departure Bay Elementary SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith

I. General Information

School Name: Departure Bay Elementary

School District: SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith

Inquiry Team Members: Melissa Kristiansen:, April Hilland:, Erica Bakewell:, Stacy Aitken:, Natalie Corcoran: natalie,

Inquiry Team Contact Email:

II. Inquiry Project Information

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE Case Study

Grade Levels Addressed Through Inquiry: Intermediate (4-7)

Curricular Areas Addressed: Not applicable

Focus Addressed: Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies, Social and emotional learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Creation of a GSA Club that meets weekly to create a safe space for LGBTQ2S+ people and their allies.

III. Spirals of Inquiry Details

Scanning: We noticed that there wasn’t a space in the school that recognized the presence of people in the LGBTQ2S+ community. We also noticed that our school community includes many allies – people who want to learn more about LGBTQ2S+ issues or support friends and family in expressing their identity.

Focus: We were hoping to build comfort around discussing LGBTQ2S+ issues and people expressing all facets of their identity. We wanted to create a weekly meeting for students in grades 6 and 7, where learners could explore questions and have discussions to support each others’ learning. We wanted to expand the number of adults in the lives of the students who attended meetings, to build a larger supportive network at school.

Hunch: There had never been an obvious need or interest in acknowledging the “community” in our school. We hypothesized that because there was no acknowledgement of anything but traditional gender norms; students weren’t comfortable discussing gender-queer or non-binary parts of their identity.

New Professional Learning:

SOGI resources shared by School District:

  • Parent letter
  • Pride Week Inclusiveness School Letter
  • Pride Club response

Resources from Justene Dion-Glowa (they/them):

  • SOGI 1 2 3 Program Lead – BC
  • SOGI 123 – GSA’s
  • EGALE – my GSA
  • TransCareBC – so you wanna start a GSA?
  • GSA study report
  • SOGI inclusive booklist


  • Glennon Doyle – May 12, 2023
  • Ask Lisa podcast about supporting your LGBTQ+ child

Taking Action: The school counselor visited grades 6 and 7 classrooms and invited students to attend a weekly GSA club meeting in the library. At our first meeting, we established group norms: choosing an attention-getting signal, only one person speaking at a time, making sure self-regulating behaviors aren’t distracting others. We had a discussion about cuddling/snuggling and how it could make others feel uncomfortable, which led to a good discussion around public displays of affection (hand-holding) and gender norms.

We started each meeting over the whole year with a circle where people introduced themselves and preferred pronouns. We noticed some people changed their name or pronoun over the course of the year, and that told us members felt safe to share and that their answer could change.

We did ice breaker activities: Atoms, Assassin, and Tattoo Parlor.

We ended each meeting with an exit ticket about what members wanted to discuss in future meetings.

The last meeting of each month was a “bring a friend” social with a fun game like roll, say, keep with “Would You Rather” questions, or a GSA scavenger hunt, and treats.

Over the year we covered these topics: representation (in movies and TV shows, in books, and in jobs in the community, and how that’s changed over time), allyship, flags and their meanings, how queer people have chosen to self-identify over time, drag Kings and Queens, the experience of transitioning (book about Jazz), the history of Pride, button making, and a giant PRIDE mural.

We celebrated Pride in June with a parade, rainbow day, and a weekly trivia contest on the announcements.

Checking: Fall: 12 answered “yes” and 6 answered “no” to the question, ““Do you know two adults at school who believe you’ll be successful at achieving your goals?” Spring: 15 answered “yes”, 6 answered “no”. Because the people who show up aren’t the same every week, it’s possible that some people who answered “no” in the fall are now answering “yes”, and new students who began attending more recently are answering “no”. Asking the question is a valuable exercise, to reinforce the purpose of our club.

The effect of this space is hard to measure, because there may be students who don’t attend but feel reassured that such a space exists. There have been students who enrolled in our school part way through the year and started coming to the club after we asked the initial question. In addition, some of the spin-off benefit is through education staff at staff meetings by using correct terms like gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual as descriptive words, not slurs. We’re confident that it’s a step in the right direction to create a safe space for LGBTQ2S+ students and their allies, with the goal of a healthy, inclusive school community.

Reflections/Advice: It was tremendously helpful to have someone from “the community” to guide the hetero teachers who sponsor the club. In future, I would reach out to our SOGI representative and local organizations like PFLAG to invite guests to our meetings.

The biggest challenge we faced was worry about pushback from parents. While none of us want to have those difficult conversations, we are fortunate to have a strong administrator who supports our goals, and strong supportive language at the School District level to back up our club’s existence.