Fraser Lake Elementary Secondary SD#91 Nechako Lakes

School Name: Fraser Lake Elementary Secondary

School District: SD#91 Nechako Lakes

Inquiry Team Members:Kathy Chmelyk;
Patti Ann Plowman;

Inquiry Team Contact Email:

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE

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

Curricular Area(s): Arts Education, Language Arts – Literacy, Language Arts – Reading, Language Arts – Writing, Social Studies, Other: language, culture, leadership

Focus Addressed: Aboriginal understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Community-based learning, Differentiated instruction, Experiential learning, First Peoples Principles of Learning, Flexible learning, Formative assessment, Growth mindset, Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies, Indigenous pedagogy, Inquiry-based learning, Land, Nature or Place-based learning, Social and emotional learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? To work with our indigenous communities to provide learning opportunities that reflect our local culture, history, and language.

Scanning: By providing our learners with these opportunities, many of our indigenous students were able to shine and share their knowledge of their language and culture. There was a definite sense of pride and a greater willingness to participate in class discussions and activities. These opportunities had a significant impact on non-Indigenous students as well. They enjoyed learning more about the local culture and language and were able to make connections between their family backgrounds, immigration, colonialism, and why we are working towards reconciliation. We had one experience for the adults to visit one of our Indigenous communities to learn about local culture; several times indigenous community members came in to the school to teach about language, culture, and history and another where staff; two groups of students visited K’san and one group attended a Pow Wow and Drum Ceremony in Northern Ontario, and staff and students participated in cultural activities at National Indigenous People Day.

Focus: We wanted to work with our indigenous communities to establish a healthy relationship between our students, communities, and school. We wanted to create a long term, systemic, positive impact on all our stakeholders. We wanted all students to feel like they are part of the school community and that the lessons we are teaching are relevant to them. We hoped by including indigenous content throughout our lessons, instead of as a “one off”, students would feel more engaged in their education and more connected to the school.

Hunch: In the past, we made assumptions about what should be taught, without asking or consulting the indigenous communities for input. We felt (and still feel) we did not have the background knowledge or resources to teach about our local culture, history or language. After attending the Pro-d session, having guest speakers come into the classrooms, and making some connections with the communities, we feel more confident about content we should include and people we can approach for guidance.

New Professional Learning: Kathy was a member of the secondary Aboriginal teacher leader group; Patti Ann arranged to have the Nadleh band put on a Pro-d Day event for the school staff where we learned about local culture, traditions, history, and different people we can access within the community for different experiences; the elementary department purchased a number of book club sets and lower level books with indigenous content; professional reading.

Taking Action: We reached out to the communities and expressed our desire to work together and our need of their help. Finally we decided to stop over thinking how to go about doing it and just jumped in and did it. Once we made the initial contact and had our first meeting, the lodal bands were much more willing to work together and also started to approach us.

Checking: We think we made a difference for all learners and all communities. We feel we have a stronger relationship with the two bands and we will be able to continue to work together next year. It has become easier to weave in indigenous content and principles of learning into our curriculum planning in logical ways and not in a tokenistic manner.

Reflections/Advice: We learned it is okay to ask for help and to not have everything planned and figured out ahead of time. We had to be patient and willing to give up some of the “lesson planning control” in order to start building relationships and to get the school and communities working together. As Nike would say, “Just do it!”

We plan to include more Carrier language in our classrooms and in our signage. We want to get out on to the land with our students to learn more about local medicinal plants, indigenous stewardship, and traditional salmon fishing and preservation.

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