École Woodward Hill Elementary SD#36 Surrey

School Name: École Woodward Hill Elementary

School District: SD#36 Surrey

Inquiry Team Members: Brad Issel: issel_b@surreyschools.ca, Dawne Edwards: edwards_d@surreyschools.ca, Elaine Vaughan: vaughan_e@surreyschools.ca, Sabrina Schoen: schoen_s@surreyschools.ca, Stephanine McDonald: mcdonald_s@surreyschools.ca, Bronwen Howden: howden_b@surreyschools.ca, Juhi Fitzgerald: fitzgerald_j@surreyschools.ca

Inquiry Team Contact Email: issel_b@surreyschools.ca

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE

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

Curricular Area(s): Physical & Health Education, Other: Social and Emotional Learning

Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Community-based learning, First Peoples Principles of Learning, Flexible learning, Land, Nature or Place-based learning, Self-regulation, Social and emotional learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Our committee began to build a dedicated space which would encourage staff and students to move some of their formal and informal learning outside.

Scanning: We knew that our students wanted to be learning outside more. We learned that they wanted to be quiet and listen outdoors. We learned they didn’t have a lot of places to just sit and be still, while still being together as a community. We learned that the opportunity to sit together quietly, or listening to each other quietly, or listening and telling stories outside together is not something that most of our students have an opportunity to regularly experience. This ties in nicely with one of the FPPL principles, that “learning is holistic, reflexive, reflective, experiential, and relational (focussed on connectedness, on reciprocal relationships, and a sense of place).”

Focus: We built a circle using cedar logs to provide an opportunity for our learners to come together; a place that belongs to all of our students and teachers, that could be used in a multitude of ways. We wanted to support our learning communities by providing a sacred place to reflect, listen and understand, a place of stillness, a place to learn together in a circle.

Hunch: We found that the majority of the teachers/students that were using the log circle were moving what they already were doing in their classrooms (e.g. Morning Meetings, Talking-Stick-Circles) into the outdoor area. We found that simply providing a space and place did not necessarily mean that classroom communities who do not generally practice or value such rituals would suddenly start to try new things.

New Professional Learning: We tried to explore Medicine Wheels deeply and the idea of a Medicine Wheel Garden, which was supposed to be in the centre of our log circle. We initially started exploring the medicine wheel and the different aspects and meanings of the 4 quadrants. We purchased beautiful resources, materials and teaching materials with our grant, with the intent to build that garden. Unfortunately, the day before we were to have the materials delivered to the site, someone from the school district put a hold/stop/pause to our plans, citing CUPE/safety concerns. We are still hopeful that we will be able to move forward with this part of our project next year.

Taking Action: We tried to plan, act and deliver as a committee (we even merged Indigenous Understandings with the Gardening Club), but we learned that without full-school buy-in, it is difficult to make things happen quickly. Many of our ideas were not adopted by our larger school population and there was even some push-back. Perhaps this was due to the difficult situation we were in this year (Covid), but it often feels like Indigenous initiatives, teachings, learning and understandings are left as an add-on if there is time. It’s almost as if it takes something tragic or scary (e.g. the Kamloops unmarked graves), to push people into taking action. We are hopeful that the resources we have purchased and gathered will be used well in the months and years ahead.

Checking: We started something… we built a beginning… we created a dedicated space. We are proud of what we started, but we wish that we had been able to do more. We are committed to continuing the work in the years ahead, and hope that more classrooms will become involved and use the learning space that was created.

Reflections/Advice: We learned that big, well-thought out plans and ideas can come to a screeching halt because one person makes a decision. We learned that although our plan did not play out as we had hoped, that we still created something beautiful and a legacy to our students. We learned to be okay with plans changing – that we can adapt (e.g. instead of the medicine wheel garden, we created a rock medicine wheel inside the logs circle – some of the grant money went towards rock paint instead of plants). We learned that change doesn’t happen quickly, but we can hope that by continuing to persevere, and by building spaces and creating opportunities for learning, that change will happen… we can only continue to plant the seeds and water them and hope for growth.

Leave a Reply