EBUS Academy SD#91 Nechako Lakes

School Name: EBUS Academy

School District: SD#91 Nechako Lakes

Inquiry Team Members:narnold@sd91.bc.ca, mboniface@sd91.bc.ca, btoll@sd91.bc.ca

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

Type of Inquiry: AESN (focus on Indigenous learners or Indigenous understandings)

Grade Levels: Primary (K-3), Intermediate (4-7), Secondary (8-12)

Curricular Area(s): Language Arts – Literacy, Language Arts – Oral Language, Language Arts – Reading, Language Arts – Writing, Matahematics / Numeracy, Science

Focus Addressed: Aboriginal understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Community-based learning, Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Experiential learning, First Peoples Principles of Learning, Indigenous pedagogy, Land, Nature or Place-based learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Throughout the year, in collaboration with teachers, the focus is to offer cultural learning opportunities (field trips and virtual classes) that connect students to First Peoples Principles of Learning and promote the development of positive personal and cultural identity as a core competency.

Scanning: Over the course of the past couple of years, we had observed greater participation by students and parents in the cultural opportunities that we have offered. Families were appearing to be increasingly engaged and open to new learning. However, we observed that we didn’t have enough information about how the learning opportunities are impacting the learners and their families. This year, we collaboratively worked together to help learners reflect on their learning before and after field trips and learning opportunities. We collected the information from parents and students as part of our scanning to determine if students were making connections. We also used the reflections from students and parents to guide improvements and changes for future field trips and learning activities. A goal of the cultural learning activities that were offered was to promote positive personal and cultural identity as a core competency. Many of our learning activities and guest presenters touched on personal and cultural identity; additionally, our Strong Nations virtual classes were designed to support reading and literacy while also promoting positive cultural identity. We were mindful about the topic of spiritual teachings and protocols; we will informed families and staff prior to hosting an activity to allow them to decide whether to participate. We hosted a trip to Mission BC to tour St. Mary’s Residential School this year; we provided resources to parents and students to prepare them in advance for the subject matter, understanding that participants may have varying knowledge and varying personal connection to the history and topics related to residential schools.

Focus: We selected this area because we believe that all learners benefit from a greater awareness and understanding of Aboriginal Worldview as well a strong sense of identity.
This year, we were hoping for increased participation from students in our field trips and online learning activities (such as our Strong Nations reading virtual classes). We were also hoping to observe deeper reflection on how learners made connections through their experiences as participants. We purposefully prepared pre- and post-activities to help learners make connections and communicate their experiences to us.

Hunch: Prior to this year, we had not offered learners any type of self-reflection for learning opportunity. This year, we changed our practice to embed these reflections in the activities we offered. We also provided pre-learning activities to make field trips more meaningful and more educational.

There is a provincial focus on First Peoples Principles of Learning in the New Curriculum and our hunch was that some educators in our school were unsure of how to approach embedding principles, protocols and resources. We offered learning opportunities for staff this year and supported staff to share their learning amongst staff. We collaboratively with teachers built an online Aboriginal Resource library for our school comprised of locally-developed resources as well as published resources. We continue to maintain this library and provide in-service with teachers on how to use the resources available to them.

New Professional Learning: Professional learning this year included: teacher teams attending the FNESC conference, the Indspire conference, invited local First Nations authors, artists, community members to share teachings with staff, students, and parents, worked with our district Vice Principal of Aboriginal Education in lesson-planning, field trip planning and identifying resources. Through field trips, we engaged in experiential and land-based learning along with students. We discovered new resources through the field trips we organized this year. In building our Aboriginal Resource Library, we invited staff to collaboratively share and discuss resources. Staff presented at staff meetings on their professional learning.

We carved time out for staff to share their learning and collaborate. We offered two half-day professional development days with staff, during which we explored First Peoples Principles of learning and the implications for those principles in distributed learning.

Taking Action: 1. Pro-d: we invited local First Nations community members to share with staff. We organized time to explore FP Principles of Learning and we made the results of our discussion available to all teachers as a resource. We revisited topics at Staff Meetings and school-based pro-d throughout the year.
2. We attempted to start every meeting (PAC Meetings, Staff Meetings, etc) with an acknowledgement of territory.
3. Conferences: we sent teams to FNESC and Indspire conferences and brought participants together to share their learning and their resources. We asked those staff members to present to all staff.
4. Resource Library: we created a library in Moodle and invited staff to share resources. As we developed new resources with local First Nations community members, we added those resources to the library. On each resource, we tagged the permissions for that resource as well as the corresponding grade-levels and the curricular areas.
5. Reading program: we sent out a collection of Strong Nations Readers to students with lessons to go with each book. Every week, we offered a virtual class online where we read a different Strong Nations book and taught the “CAFE daily five” (reading strategies for students and parents that focus on comprehension, accuracy, fluency, expression). We taught a new strategy every week.
6. Field trips: we organized cultural field trips in different areas of the province and invited local families. As an online, school, our learners live throughout the province. We also tried to livestream some of our events. We tried this year to incorporate a pre-lesson and a post-reflection activity to promote deeper reflection on learning from our students and collect data.

Checking: We saw an improved engagement in student and parent reflection, and we hope to further improve engagement by allowing more time and providing more resources in advance of our field trips and events. We will consider the types of questions that we are asking.

We advertised our reading program this year (it is optional) which improved participation. We sent out reminders to families the day or two before the virtual classes which made a difference. This year, we picked a different strategy from the CAFE daily five and we explicitly taught each strategy (this pre-teaching improved learner’s understanding of literacy strategies and this was measurable through student’s responses to questions, and their improved ability to read the pages of the book using the strategy).

The resource library was a very good start to helping staff access resources and promote professional learning about Aboriginal Worldview and FP Principles of Learning. We think it is just the beginning and look forward to more collaborative learning next year. We saw gains when staff had designated time to collaborate and to revisit topics. We believe that we need to continue to build on the library and support staff in using the available resources.

Reflections/Advice: We learned that key component of success are organization and time. If we want deeper learning, we have to have time for it and a good plan. We plan to be even more organized next year especially with our field trips. We hope to include more pre-lessons and time for students to explore resources that relate to the upcoming trip. We are exploring the idea of inviting all staff to join us in an inquiry project focused on learning about First People Principles for the purpose of “learning first”. We have a hunch that as educators, we must first educate ourselves and build our knowledge in relation to Aboriginal Worldview. We think that this approach to professional learning aligns with the principle that learning takes patience and time. We are also interested in how we can conduct our professional learning by learning on the land. For field trips next year, our goal is to ensure that all trips involve learning on the land.

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