School Name: Fraser Lake Elementary Secondary School
School District: SD#91 Nechako Lakes
Inquiry Team Members: Kathy Chmelyk: firstname.lastname@example.org
Patti Ann Plowman: email@example.com
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE Transitions (focus on Indigenous learner transitions)
Grade Levels: Intermediate (4-7), Secondary (8-12)
Curricular Area(s): Arts Education, Language Arts – Literacy, Language Arts – Oral Language, Language Arts – Reading, Language Arts – Writing, Science, Social Studies, Other: Languages
Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), 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? To work with the local Indigenous communities to provide learning opportunities that reflect local culture, history, and language.
Scanning: At the beginning of the year, we completed a scan of our resources and lessons and we noticed that our school was lacking in local resources. We asked ourselves: Why are we not working more closely with the Indigenous communities attached to our school? How can we work more closely with them? Who are our allies in each of the Indigenous communities? Over the course of the year, we were able to work more closely with our Home-School Co-ordinator and this had a significant impact on our success. With her help we made better connections with the Indigenous communities and created some stronger relationships with the education, forestry, and fisheries departments.
The First Peoples Principles of Learning and the OECD were the foundation of what we did with our students; learning was connected to the land, culture and spirit. We spent lots of of time learning outside, learning about local plants, trees, traditions and customs. We participated in activities that involved giving and receiving from the land, and sharing with the Indigenous communities. Our learning honoured the Ancestors, Elders, Knowledge Keepers, and Descendants. We learned about ceremonies and traditional teachings from books, stories, our home-school coordinator and Indigenous community members, and followed these practices. We developed relationships with our Indigenous communities, learned about different cultures, and practiced honouring the perspectives of others in our communities. Students explored the questions: Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going? and What is my purpose? Students also learned that learning is a journey and that it takes courage, patience, and humility. Kindness was a primary focus for all that we did and our purpose each day was to be the best people we could be. Learning was experiential and had the learners at the center.
Focus: We wanted to help our students develop a better understanding of the local Indigenous history, culture, and language. We also wanted our students to learn the truth about colonization and the impact it had on Indigenous People in Canada, and specifically in our local area. The relationship between the school and communities isn’t great because of the impact of residential schools; most local families had several generations attend the Lejac Residential School, which was a 5 minute drive from where our school sits.
Hunch: Most resources are not about local Indigenous people, so much of what students learned about was from other areas of Canada. We thought that if students learned about local history, culture and language, it would engage the Indigenous students and would build relationships with the two communities.
New Professional Learning:
Kathy: This year I spent time searching through APTN and NFB to see what I could find for BC programming. I also looked for books written by local authors. Strong Nations and Good Minds were two bookstores that I used to search for resources. I created a project during which students searched for Indigenous Canadian Geographic names and their meanings.
Patti Ann: I read several books and articles and watched several documentaries and movies on Indigenous topics through the Ab. Ed. Teacher leader cohort that I am part of. I also learned more about the Seasonal Rounds (Carrier/Dakleh Calendar) and started to base my planning and teaching around it. I learned about traditional uses of local plants and trees. I also read more picture books and novels on Indigenous topics by Indigenous authors, and incorporated them into my teaching.
Taking Action: During this inquiry we realized that we had to take a different approach. Although we felt like there were many roadblocks impeding our progress, we did not let them stop us; instead, we rethought our plans for completing the inquiry and acquiring information and help. Covid brought with it many challenges across the board, but not being able to have visitors in the school made our plans seem impossible. Kathy decided to look at different means of bringing local knowledge into her lessons, which involved finding tv shows, etc., to share with her students. Patti Ann ventured out onto the land with her class; she worked closely with the FLESS home-school coordinator to make some connections within the Indigenous communities, to assist with land-based learning; she did learning on her own around residential schools, colonialism, seasonal rounds, traditional uses of plants and trees, etc.; she taught her students and then shared what the class had done with the two local Indigenous communities via letters and books they made, describing their learning. The home-school coordinator helped to deliver our letters and books, which made a significant impact on the communities and resulted in some connections made in the Spring from one of the communities directly to Patti Ann about doing a project together – a first!
Checking: We believe that we made a significant difference in the relationship between the school and the local Indigenous communities. We worked on several projects on our own – which we shared out – and then worked with the Indigenous communities on a couple of projects as well. Through our efforts of sharing what we are doing, the Indigenous communities are seeing that we are making changes and we are beginning to see a willingness to work together. Students appeared to be more interested in the topics/themes we are teaching. They especially enjoyed assignments that allowed them to work outside and would arrive to class with anticipation of what they would be learning. Students would take pride in being able to share the information that they learned with each other and with the Indigenous communities.
Reflections/Advice: This inquiry has taught us that there are more local resources available than we originally thought there were. When searching for local resources, many are found by “word of mouth” and it may take some old fashioned leg work as opposed to a Google search. Our next steps are to create lessons, assignments, and learning activities that implement more of the local resources that we found.
It also taught us that learning on our own, teaching the students what we have learned, and then sharing what we are doing with the Indigenous communities, shows what we are doing and that we are trying to incorporate more Indigenous content, knowledge, and principles into our teaching. It also provides an avenue for asking if there are other opportunities to work together. We are optimistic that we will be able to build on the work we did this year, and continue to develop the relationships with the two local Indigenous communities and do more work together.