School Name: Dover Bay Secondary School
School District: SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith
Inquiry Team Members: Rebecca Wehner, firstname.lastname@example.org
Darcy Johnson, email@example.com
Carol Girard, 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): Arts Education, Language Arts – Literacy, Language Arts – Oral Language, Physical & Health Education, 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), Differentiated instruction, Experiential learning, First Peoples Principles of Learning, Flexible learning, Growth mindset, Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies, Indigenous pedagogy, Land, Nature or Place-based learning, Social and emotional learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Incorporating more opportunities for students to experience Indigenous knowledge — by bringing guests and units into their classrooms.
Scanning: We primarily used First Nations ways of learning and knowing to guide the scanning process. I interviewed a number of students about their experiences in school, and what came up was a desire from the students to have more exposure to authentic Indigenous content in the classroom setting.
Focus: Students who had experienced Indigenous content incorporated into their classes in elementary schools, described it as a way to feel connected, create a sense of community, and feel more grounded. Whether students were Indigenous or not, incorporating this within the classroom can help set the stage for reconciliation and meaningful conversations about the realities Indigenous Canadians face.
Hunch: Teachers were eager to incorporate Indigenous content, but didn’t know where to look or where to start — comfort level may not have been there yet. Breaking down these barriers by inviting in guest speakers and incorporating information related to the Northern Games, is the beginning of integrating Indigenous knowledge into the classroom.
New Professional Learning: Myself and Darcy met to discuss ideas surrounding integrating Indigenous content into the school. These meetings would not have happened otherwise. Darcy started off the second semester with a unit based on exploring Inuit, Dene, and Coast Salish art styles, so that students could develop their own designs to be used on Northern Games event flags – this also set the stage for the remainder of her semester.
Taking Action: I did the planning, organizing, and communication required to allow teachers to easily sign up for guest speakers and activities during our Aboriginal Culture week in February, which tied in with the Moose Hide Campaign. Student Council also became involved in this by reaching out to even more students, helping with fundraising and getting the word out to students — making it all more visible.
By making it easy for teachers to simply sign up for an activity or guest speaker during their regular class time, it was incredibly successful and allowed teachers to observe and learn along with their students.
Checking: Following the unit in Darcy’s art classes, students were able to produce incredible artwork right off the bat that was not only very meaningful, but allowed for individual creativity. This has allowed her to continue exploring themes around Indigenous learning and racism within the context of her course.
Following Aboriginal Culture week, the feedback from teachers and students was outstanding. Little stories like, how participating in a drumming circle brought a sense of community to a very energetic and challenging class of boys that didn’t exist prior, tell me how successful it was. My own genocide studies students stayed after the Kairos Blanket Exercise just to talk about what they had learned, thank me for the opportunity to learn the content in this way, and communicated their desire to participate in similar activities.
Not every teacher was able to sign up for something during culture week, so I collected a list of requests for guests based on what was offered, and intended to bring those in before the year was over; however, due to Covid-19 this was not possible. So, although I am happy with what I saw happen, I am not satisfied that it is enough until all of our teachers have had the chance to incorporate these types of activities into their classrooms.
Reflections/Advice: If you want to incorporate meaningful, authentic Indigenous content into your high school, here is how you can start:
1. Apply for as many grants as you can. Our Indigenous guests and knowledge keepers need to be compensated for the gifts they provide us.
2. Reach out to the Indigenous Education Coordinators for your district. They may be able to connect you with other resource people, including individuals already within the district that have gifts to share (that you may not already know about).
3. Do the difficult work yourself and with your team. Make opportunities as EASY as possible for teachers to include in their classes, and give them lots of notice ahead of time. By taking out any stress related to planning it themselves, puts the focus on allowing teachers to simply enjoy and absorb the experience along with their students, encouraging them to reach out on their own to include it in the future.