Forsyth Road Elementary SD#36 Surrey

I. General Information

School Name: Forsyth Road Elementary

School District: SD#36 Surrey

Inquiry Team Members: Regie Plana-Alcuaz:,
Nicholas Bracewell:,
Amy O’Connor:,
Mika Sudo:,
Raman Atwal:,
Hina Rahman:

Inquiry Team Contact Email:

II. Inquiry Project Information

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE Case Study

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

Curricular Areas Addressed: Applied Design, skills & Technology, Arts Education, Language Arts – Oral Language, Language Arts – Reading, Social Studies

Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Experiential learning, First Peoples Principles of Learning, Flexible learning, Indigenous pedagogy, Inquiry-based learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Fertilizing Roots: Reconnecting with Indigenous Heritage

III. Spirals of Inquiry Details

Scanning: The students were asked within their classes because many of them prefer not to be singled out, and at their age there is a need to be part of the group. When the students were asked questions, it was in the context of a lesson and not separately. We were able to discover that the students who could name two people, had a better self-image and trust in adults. Before writing their responses, we discussed what it meant to be “successful in life”. Students shared that being successful meant that you needed to be a hard worker, determined, and motivated. It meant not giving up, and having a good career. Emotions are acknowledged as integral to learning, positively associating education with gaining success, and knowing that there are people in school who support you in this helps keep learners motivated. Learning supports personal well-being, as well as that of the family, community, land, spirits and ancestors.

Focus: Our Indigenous students are often disconnected from their heritage as part of past trauma on the parts of their parents or grandparents. What would enable them to reconnect? In my experience living with the Nisga’a, it is ceremony and practice that build community and enable students to feel more part of being a Nisga’a. Out of 27 Indigenous students, only 2 had any knowledge about their Indigenous background. We were hoping that by having a chance to make drums and rattles to be used in school ceremonies, this would awaken a curiosity and hunger for their heritage in our Indigenous students, so that they would seek to know more about where they come from and be proud of it.

Hunch: I’m new to this school, and one thing that was noticeable, was that there is not one Indigenous staff member — not even the Indigenous child care worker. I became the Indigenous lead partly because there was no one else who had qualifications or even volunteered. I wanted to, having experienced living and teaching in an Indigenous community up north, the Nisga’a Nation, for over three years. I was informed by a colleague that this was the first time in years that there was anything that had been done with the Indigenous students in the school. When we had First Peoples in Residence Week, our Indigenous students used the drums and rattles to welcome in the classes, and they also expressed their wishes during the welcoming ceremony about what the other students would learn. It was a positive experience for everyone in school. I think our next step is to set up a group for our Indigenous students.

New Professional Learning: As this was the first time in a long time that there were any significant projects done with Indigenous students at our school, long-term planning needs to be undertaken for more consistent progress. Our school is an inner-city school with high needs, so there were a lot of interruptions to plans, especially since the lead is an Integration Support Teacher and could be pulled at any time. The resource that was the most helpful was the grant funds, which were partly used to invite Elder Philip Gladue and Cultural Facilitator Dennis Leon in, among others that came to our school to present during First Peoples in Residence Week. It’s always best to learn from authentic sources. Indigenous education is for all students to learn about. Our focus was on exploring and learning new approaches.

Taking Action: There hadn’t been a lot of Indigenous activities until recently at our high-needs school, that focused specifically on our Indigenous learners. Some activities that we facilitated this year were the spirit and ceremony drums and rattles making, MMIWG and Moose Hide Campaign Day information dissemination amongst staff, and the First Peoples in Residence Week. There were also the Indigenous display case, and the boards showing First Nations maps and calendar, which we had received from another school. There are plans to have a group that regularly meets next school year.

Photo description: Students filling in the rattles with Elder Philip (photo credit: Regie Plana-Alcuaz)

Photo description: Students looking at Indigenous display case (photo credit: Regie Plana-Alcuaz)

Photo description: Students listening to Elder Philip Gladue (Metis/Cree) and Indigenous Knowledge Keeper/Cultural Facilitator Dennis Leon (Kwantlen) speaking to the Indigenous students (photo credit: Regie Plana-Alcuaz)

Checking: At this point, we’re starting with baby steps. The students who participated in making the drums and rattles were able to use them to “drum in” the classes to the Welcome Assembly during First Peoples in Residence Week. A number of them also spoke in the Assembly about how important it was to participate in learning about Indigenous Peoples and were afterwards treated to pizza as a reward. They looked forward to activities we had that brought them together, including making bannock. We look forward to more experiences the kids will have in the next year and beyond, because we are hoping to sustain this momentum. We will ask the questions when we return in the next year.

Reflections/Advice: The learning never ends. We learned about how hungry the students are to learn more about, and participate in, activities that teach them about their heritage. We plan to continue with these activities and seek more resources to allow them to perhaps have opportunities for outside activities. I might connect with my previous Indigenous school district, Nisga’a, as well as band schools to see if we can do a postcard exchange or some similar project. For other schools, I would advise them to inquire with their Aboriginal Education teachers about resources they can use, and also connect with Indigenous schools.