Forest Park Elementary SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith

School Name: Forest Park Elementary

School District: SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith

Inquiry Team Members:Larry Dean Principal
Stephanie Stephens Innovation & Inquiry Teacher
Jacquie Davidson Grade 1
Marina Letham Grade 2/3
Guy Tohanna Grade 4
Kelli McDougal Grade 4/5
Joe Smith Grade 4/5
Michael Zimmer Grade 5
Kurt Feschuk Grade 5/6
Dave Kotai Grade 6/7
Scott Motely Grade 6/7
Michelle Bulmer Librarian
Debra Elliott Aboriginal EA

Inquiry Team Contact Email:

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

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

Curricular Area(s): Language Arts – Literacy, Language Arts – Oral Language, Language Arts – Writing, Science, Social Studies

Focus Addressed: Aboriginal understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation)

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? In what ways will an Indigenous community garden and focus on Indigenous plants increase understanding of Aboriginal Ways of Knowing for both students and staff.

Scanning: Our discussions about the scanning phase and talking with students and staff clearly indicated that there was a lack of knowledge and understanding around Aboriginal knowledge, history and culture. We recognized that with the revised curriculum it was imperative that collectively it is our responsibility to: improve the success of Aboriginal students while creating a sense of belonging, educate all students learning about Aboriginal peoples, history and culture and lastly, help teachers in their efforts to bring Aboriginal knowledge into their teaching practice.
We looked at First Peoples Principles of Learning and realized a deeper understanding is first necessary. This understanding could then be used to guide educators’ choices about what is important to learn and what kinds of learning experiences to create for learners in the contexts.
So we reflected as a group…..
What do we already know about Aboriginal Perspectives and Understandings? What do we want to learn about Aboriginal Perspectives and Understandings? Who can support us if I need?
– Blanket activity with district Aboriginal personal
– Look at district goals- Aboriginal Education: Collective Ownership
– Establish a garden committee: make a plan “Create an Indigenous Garden”, create big idea questions
– Consider Aboriginal curriculum links: Language Arts & Science
– Question: Are we using the resources we already have

Focus: Our focus is based on the need for Aboriginal Understanding with both students and staff. As a collective group we agreed that the benefits of a community garden can be a tool for well-being; increasing physical activity, reducing stress and increasing a sense of belonging in a safe environment. Our focus was to increase our Aboriginal understanding by planting Indigenous plants in our community garden. We looked deeper into the following questions: How are plants a part of Aboriginal history? What does the Earth contribute to you? We incorporated and embed Aboriginal content in all curricular areas that were related to our questions. Using the seven learning principles from ‘The Nature of Learning’ we focused on the following: learners at the center, recognizing individual differences and building horizontal connections

Hunch: Our school is very inviting, safe and welcoming….but we noticed that the more we started to incorporate Aboriginal big ideas or curricular content in our classrooms, students were yearning for more, a lot more. Not just a story, or a video but they wanted to learn, understand and go deeper into their learning about Aboriginal ways of learning. This was a great hunch!

New Professional Learning: – Blanket Activity with staff
– Librarian to showcase Aboriginal Resources that we already have
– NDTA PLG Book- “Speaking Our Truth” by Monique Gray Smith
– Professional Development Day- District Aboriginal Education Staff, Carlo Pavlon “How to be an ALLY”
– As a staff watch, “Indian Hose” based on the book Richard Wagmese
– Learn about Indigenous plants/local
– Create binders for participating teachers with resources:
1. Plants of the Snaw-naw-as and Sne-ney-muxw
2. Going Wild! Teaching about Wild Products from BC’s Coastal Rainforest
3. First Nations Science & Ethnobotany Unit K-10
4. Authentic SD68 Aboriginal Stories
– Teach/Share/Reflect/Discuss
– Indigenous Xup’unup (Garden) Celebration

Taking Action: Students/Staff were involved and included:
– Going to local community garden
– Buddy classes worked together to learn about the Indigenous plants and their benefits
– Local stories and practicing of oral story telling (each participating teacher received 8 Coast Salish stories related to the land)
– Learning about the needs of a garden: Planting/Watering
– Ongoing dicusssion on how the Earth contributes to us
– Harvesting and preparing stinging nettle tea
– Every class planted a couple of plants
– Having an Indigenous Plant Elder come to share his stories
– Invite local drummer, Patrick Aleck to teach students local songs
– Celebration Assembly for the Xupunup Garden and Earth Day

Checking: Evidence gathered using our assessment showed:
Prior to explicit teaching most students were in the ‘seedling phase’. They didn’t really hear any Aboriginal stories and were not able to make the connections to the land
– Also, data showed that even though some students in the intermediate divisions were in the ‘root phase’ for how the earth contributes to me, all other students were in the ‘seedling or root phase.’
– Post data relieved significant growth in both questions; most students were in the ‘plant phase’ for both questions.
– We noticed that all students were able to say what they were learning and how their learning was going. We also noticed that self-reflection and assessment allowed them to tell us where they were going next with their learning.

Reflections/Advice: What worked well…. Teachers collaborating, working together and celebrating our new learning. What did you learn…building a collective understanding of Aboriginal ways is easy, necessary and so important. How did this transform your practice…looking at the benefits of the project and seeing how many ties it had with the curriculum, it made sense. Advice to others….We worked together as team and created a day in history where two worlds came together to learn together, to walk slowly together and to celebrate what can happen when our hearts are in the right place. What’s next? We will continue learning about the First Peoples Principles of Learning. Using the seven principles from the ‘The Nature of Learning’ we will keep our learners at the center of their learning, we will continue celebrating and recognizing individual differences and that we will continue to build horizontal connections. Once the plants grow, students will harvest and make teas, tonics and medicines.

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