School Name: Hatzic Elementary
School District: SD#75 Mission
Inquiry Team Members:Vivian Searwar: firstname.lastname@example.org
Joanne Davis: email@example.com
Julie Brown: firstname.lastname@example.org
Inquiry Team Contact Email: email@example.com
Type of Inquiry: AESN (focus on Indigenous learners or Indigenous understandings)
Grade Levels: Primary (K-3), Intermediate (4-7)
Curricular Area(s): Applied Design, skills & Technology, Arts Education, Language Arts – Literacy, Language Arts – Oral Language, Language Arts – Reading, Language Arts – Writing, Physical & Health Education, Social Studies
Focus Addressed: Aboriginal understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), First Peoples Principles of Learning, Indigenous pedagogy
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Studying the evolution of reciprocity in our school community with the notion of hands back, hands forward
Scanning: During the scanning phase, we reflected about how we were enhancing our learning and our students’ learning through Indigenous worldviews, perspectives and ways of knowing. We looked at classroom based learning and school-wide learning and referred to the following First Peoples’ Principles of Learning which state that Learning involves generational roles and responsibilities and Learning involves patience and time. We used the student answers to the four questions to frame our thinking about how our students feel about sharing their learning, a form of reciprocity. We determined that most students still think in terms of individual learning, and on the feedback that they receive on their work. Our goal was to help them think about collective learning for the benefit of all. In addition to the four questions, we also asked them: How will you share your learning with others?
Focus: We feel that reciprocity is a core component of the First Peoples Principles of Learning as well as the Core Competencies. Our goal was to try and meld these two concepts together, based on the Two-Eyed Seeing approach from Mi’kmaw Elder Albert Marshall (learning to see from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing, and from the other eye with the strengths of Western knowledges and ways of knowing … and learning to use both these eyes together, for the benefit of all). We were hoping that actions of reciprocity would permeate the lives within our school community and become natural and organic, rather than “forced”, or based on “giving to receive”.
Hunch: We realize that there are many good things our staff members are doing in individual classrooms (regarding Indigenous education), but that these good things are not always shared with others or celebrated school-wide. This year, we hoped to encourage and instill a learning by reciprocity (i.e. staff teaching students, staff teaching each other, children teaching children, children teaching staff, Elders teaching students, students teaching Elders) by offering various Indigenous-based learning opportunities as well as opportunities to share them with our school community. This year our hope was to delve further into this community aspect of learning.
New Professional Learning: We used the First Peoples Principles of Learning as a guide, as well as the book Learning, Knowing & Sharing. During our collaboration meetings, we discussed specific chapters of the book and how we could take one idea and use it as a springboard for connecting with Indigenous teachings in our class and school. We encouraged staff to collaborate when planning their class activities regarding Indigenous worldview. We used the notions of hands back, hands forward as well as the Two-Eyed Seeing approach (which we added later in the year).
Taking Action: Collaboration Book Club – Learning, Knowing and Sharing (among staff)
School-Wide Eagle Feather Program (based on the seven sacred teachings) – any school community member can offer a paper eagle feather to someone who has demonstrated one of the seven sacred teachings. We connected this to our Kindness Program, (based on the book, Have you Filled a Bucket today?) where students place a pompom in our classroom bucket when they see someone doing a good act toward/for others. Once the school bucket is filled, we have a school-side extra recess. This is an example of the Two-Eyed Seeing approach.
School-Wide Winter Wellness Walk & Spring Sprint – to encourage healthy living and exercise, as well as community spirit
Eagle Feather Carving – We invited a local carver to carve an eagle feather. He worked as an artist-in-residence for six carving sessions where all school community members had the change to connect with him. The carving is now displayed in our front foyer as a symbol of our commitment to reciprocity and the seven sacred teachings.
Elder Visits – One class had a series of visits from our local elders. We participated in storytelling and drum making and Elders, staff and students participated in the honouring ceremony (for the carver).
Collaboration Days among staff – to discuss ways of connecting Indigenous worldview with their daily classroom activities, as well as connecting the Core Competencies to Indigenous knowledges.
Expansion of Recycling Program – to encourage environmental stewardship.
Joyful Literacy – Big Buddy/Little Buddy pairing
Zones of Regulation – using in the context of the Eagle Feather and Kindness Program
Year-End Reciprocity Slideshow – we took photos throughout the year of reciprocity in action, and at our final assembly, we shared these photos in a presentation for our school community.
Checking: In general, staff noticed an increase in care and concern among students, in particular students helping others in need without having to be asked or prompted.
There is a great respect and feeling of reciprocity among the students and Elders involved in the Elder project (it is showcased in the next edition of The Canoe, a publication effort from Mission School District, Surrey School District and Coquitlam School District). The notion of hands back, hands forward really rang through with this project.
We also noticed an increase in staff members willing to help students out to solve problems, rather than sending the students to the office for punishment. Our Admin team has also taken a proactive, reciprocity based approach for students who are sent to the office for behavioural concerns. The hope is to inspire the good feeling of giving back. We kept track of the number of students sent to the office as well as the reason for the trip to the office. We will continue this practice into next year, so that we can continue to monitor it.
We were satisfied with our results, but are realistic in knowing that it is a work in progress.
Reflections/Advice: The answers to our learner’s questions were much more specific than previously. Students are more apt to articulate specific examples about their learning, and gave a plethora of ways to share this learning with others (conversation, technology etc).
We learned that reciprocity is fluid and goes across ages, abilities, family histories, family values and family heritage.
We plan on continuing with this theme in the future, perhaps by providing different ways to encouraging reciprocity in our school community and incorporate the Core Competencies on a larger scale. We also are hoping to get more staff members on board earlier in the school year, with a more focused approach at regular intervals, so that our work does not get sidelined when things start to get busy.
Advice we would give to others:
Enlist in the help of local Indigenous Elders, knowledge keepers and people resources in your district Aboriginal Department to offer their expertise and guidance.
Revisit your goals on a regular basis so that that the momentum does not dissipate. Having a brief discussion at a staff meeting would be helpful.
Offer gentle support and encouragement to staff who are unfamiliar or reluctant. This can be as simple as placing some information above the photocopier (for staff to peruse as they are waiting for their print jobs).