School Name: Dover Bay Secondary School
School District: SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith
Inquiry Team Members: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Inquiry Team Contact Email: email@example.com
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE Transitions (focus on Indigenous learner transitions)
Grade Levels: Secondary (8-12)
Curricular Area(s): Not applicable
Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation)
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Dover Bay’s inquiring was to increase feelings and a sense of connectedness in our Indigenous students to Dover Bay Secondary School.
Scanning: The information the Dover NOIIE team gathered and considered in order to determine what was really going on for our Indigenous learners around our inquiry project, were student survey results to the following questions. Students were invited into the Aboriginal Education room to answer the questions as a means to invite them in, involve and connect them to this important inquiry. In following with the OECD principles of learning and the First Peoples Principles of Learning, the survey was a social opportunity for students and staff to meet in a meaningful, respectful way, where students could engage verbally through print or computer, and the purpose of the survey was clearly communicated to all involved. Here are some examples of the survey questions:
- How is high school important for your future success?
- What are two things you like about school?
- What are 2 things that would make school better?
- What makes you feel connected at school?
- Can you name two adults at Dover Bay who believe you will be a success in life?
- Do you feel you have 1-2 good friends that you see daily at school?
- What could Dover do to help you feel better connected to our community?
What we noticed was that students were shy about coming to share, yet grateful for a venue to share and be heard. Most of our students feel they have at least one teacher who believes in them. 24% of students feel they do not have a teacher who believes in them at school. Students were very positive about their connection to Dover, speaking to the need for caring teachers, more hands-on learning, education around mental health came up a number of times, more choice, cultural and academically inclusive, classes outside, more support for students, less homework and more attention to using different learning techniques.
Focus: Student attendance, past satisfaction surveys and anecdotal observation led us to believe that many of our Indigenous students lack a connection to their school. Indigenous students are underrepresented in clubs and leadership positions. Collectively, we wanted to have student voice in how and what needs to happen to increase student connection and thereby student achievement in school. Our intent was to see an increase in Indigenous student attendance, involvement in extracurricular and school activities, as well as increased student satisfaction.
Hunch: Our hunch was that students do not feel connected to school because they do not see themselves in the curriculum, in the culture, and in clubs. We were curious if we were to create partnerships and opportunities in the school, whether that would increase social, emotional, academic and physical reasons to attend school. If so, what would this look like? What can be done? Who can do this? What do the kids say they need?
What we learned is, to make school better:
- Relationships with teachers is integral to learning, and without it students struggle to learn
- Students want support with their learning
- Students want choice and less weight on tests
- Students want learning to be meaningful, not something that is “piled on”
- Students want learning to be in smaller chunks, outdoors, experiential, interactive and hands-on; they want to learn with people, not through text and media
- Students want to be educated about mental health
- Students want learning to be accessible to all – more differentiation of teaching so different learners can learn
What we learned, to foster connection and belonging was to:
- Manage student workload better
- Reach out more regularly or do check ins with our Indigenous students
- Find a way to identify barriers to joining a club and increase school-wide team building activities such as the gym riot.
- Continue to improve instruction
New Professional Learning: It is still early in our inquiry. This year has been one of listening, connecting, and learning about our students. It has also been a year to start to think ahead. For example, our school this year has moved forward in revising our School Goal on Truth and Reconciliation so that it not only recognizes that truth and reconciliation are a collective responsibility, but that we promote the use of Indigenous resources across the curriculum, encourage the use of the Hul’qumi’num language, incorporate First Peoples Principles of Learning, and strengthen our connection to our Snaw-Naw-As nation.
Taking Action: A few things that have nurtured our learning, thinking, and inquiry for next year:
- Dover Bay has an Elder in resident who joined our school. His name is George Seymour, who has been involved in several aspects of curriculum and language delivery.
- One of our team members has a connection to our local university, VIU, and is working on building a partnership with them and their gathering place, “chtekca,” as well as their “community cousin” and other programs that may benefit in having a “sister” program at Dover Bay. Along with the above, the focussed action of the final two months were:
- Monthly participation of language lessons with Elder George Seymour
- Research and connections in preparation for National Indigenous Day
- 215 wings of memory, in honour of the children from Kamloops residential school and others who were lost, and survived, from residential schools.
- Orange shirt education and awareness – ribbons for all – every Monday was declared Orange Shirt Day at Dover, in honour of the 215 children and others who never returned home from residential school.
- Hulq’umi’num word of the week through announcements (with George), once a week
- 5 words/5 phrases (1 poster with all five words)
- National Indigenous History Month (Govt. website) & ways to celebrate — what, why, and how to celebrate it
- CHOICE BOARD for Indigenous Day
- Eco-Club started a Native plant garden
- School-Wide Personal Pledge of Reconciliation – Poster in the classroom for all students to sign. B block pledge collectively as a school on June 21, 2021.
- Northern Games run in all PE classes on June 21st
Checking: In asking students to complete the survey, we were able to create greater connection to Dover Bay in two distinct ways. In asking students what their feelings were, regarding their connection to Dover Bay, inherently builds a sense of greater ownership over their experiences. Based on the feedback, students felt heard and were very open with their responses.
In asking students to come to the Indigenous Support room to complete the surveys, students that had never accessed our space before, and those that had infrequently, were reminded of the different services we offer and were introduced to Elder George Seymour. In entering our space, we were able to foster a greater sense of connection for all Indigenous identifying students at Dover Bay. After the surveys took place, more students accessed the space for a variety of reasons, either social/emotional support, academic support and cultural support. Although we do feel as though we were able to effectively make a difference in the connection for students, we struggled with the cultural connection. Ideally we would have loved to increase the presence of local artists and knowledge keepers in the school. Unfortunately, due to health restrictions, we were unable to do so in an effective way, and therefore pivoted our plans for Indigenous Peoples Day to be a virtual experience. We have, however, taken this learning and started on plans for next year and ways that we will be able to jumpstart increased cultural activities, including drum-making in the fall.
Reflections/Advice: When reflecting on our experience this past year, we were both encouraged to hear that many students felt a connection to Dover Bay, and had our hunch confirmed regarding an increase in cultural activities. Interestingly enough, another topic that frequently came up across student responses was greater exposure to social/emotional learning in their day to day lives at Dover Bay. With more opportunities for students to engage in cultural activities next year, this may bring about more conversations around the connection between culture and well-being. This also gives us ideas on how we can incorporate more land-based learning activities (like medicine walks) and emphasize the connection to social/emotional well-being moving forward.
For schools that may be interested in this inquiry moving forward, we would recommend facilitating the surveys in the Indigenous Support space. Not all students have the opportunity to connect to the room, and this is the best place to start.