School Name: Hatzic Middle School
School District: SD#75 Mission
Inquiry Team Members: Lyn O’Grady-spearheaded this whole school inquiry
A number of staff worked with their students in this whole school project
Inquiry Team Contact Email: email@example.com
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Intermediate (4-7), Secondary (8-12)
Curricular Area(s): Applied Design, skills & Technology, Arts Education, Language Arts – Oral Language, Language Arts – Writing
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, Inquiry-based learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? This year I was striving to include all students and staff members in a whole school inquiry focused on ‘The Sacred Teaching of Respect’.
Scanning: I used the four key questions with 4 of my Gr. 8 students as that was the class I chose to be involved in this years inquiry project. I chose 2 Aboriginal students and 2 non-Aboriginal students as I wanted to compare their answers and note any differences from their cultural backgrounds. The students were quick to name adults in the school who provided them with positive feedback, on a regular basis, and who challenged, supported and encouraged them to follow their passions and ‘be the best they could be’. These adults enhanced the students self esteem as they facilitated their learning, guided them on their learning journey and provided the stability the students needed to achieve success in their lives.
I focused on the First Peoples Principles of Learning as we discuss these throughout the year. I asked the 4 students how they could/were using theses principles in their lives-personally and academically. Each student was able to identify with most principles and give examples of how they view that principle in their own lives. Most students struggled to make connections with the principle-‘Learning is holistic, reflexive, reflective, experiential and relational’. This informed my learning that I need to make time for further and deeper discussions using this principle.
Focus: I selected ‘The Sacred Teaching of Respect’ as our district elders had chosen this as our sacred teaching in Mission School District for 2018-2019 school year. Each year the elders choose a specific teaching and we have a poster printed of the teaching with a graphic to represent the teaching and the animal associated with that particular teaching. Every classroom has this on their wall. However, ‘the poster sits on the wall’ and many students/staff rarely discuss the sacred teaching and how they can bring it into their lives.
I was hoping that all students/staff in the school would have the opportunity to discuss, co-problem solve and co-learn about the importance of the sacred teaching of respect and how they can bring it into their daily lives.
Hunch: I initially began this whole school project by creating a baseline about what the students and staff knew about the sacred teaching of respect, what they wanted to learn about it, what they knew about the buffalo and its connection to the sacred teaching of respect and what they wanted to know about the buffalo and its connection to the sacred teaching of respect.
The school has one book in the library about the seven sacred teachings so that is a huge concern as we have one book to share with 725 students. Staff needed materials to inform and use in their practice to have conversations about the meaning of the ‘poster on the wall’. Many of the staff, including myself, are not familiar with the sacred teaching of respect and the animal associated with that teaching so that was a definite area contributing to our learners being unaware of the sacred teaching, its importance and its meaning.
New Professional Learning: I explored the ‘Sacred Teaching of Respect’, what it actually means, how we can bring and practice it into our daily lives and the meaning of the buffalo associated with this teaching. In addition, I planned a whole school project, based on open inquiry, for all staff and students to be involved as they learned with and from each other. I found it challenging in planning an inquiry project that would be suitable to every staff and student needs and an inquiry that could easily be introduced, understood and facilitated in the classroom. I needed to provide ample opportunities for students and staff to explore and discover during the inquiry process and at the same time plan for the information to be user friendly for all involved. Although I encountered a number of challenging situations at times the learning curve for me was huge both personally and professionally. The resources most helpful were:
1. The Seven Sacred Teachings by David Bouchard-both the hard copy booklet, coloured photocopied sheets of the Sacred Teaching of Respect and the pdf file. I provided both the English and French version so the French teachers could compliment their French classes with this inquiry project.
2. Worksheets I designed for the students to use in discussions and add their own jot notes as a reference to their learning
3. Clear, concise and easy to follow lesson plans the staff could use or change to suit their own practice and the students needs. There were 4 lesson plans altogether and then the culmination/celebration activity.
4. ‘Exit slips’ for the students to write at the end of each class focused on what they had learned about Indigenous learning
Taking Action: Strategies that were used include:
1. The students formed groups of 4-5 themselves and then were given sheets of paper with titles ‘home’, ‘school’, and ‘community’.
2. Groups were asked to choose a scribe , to write down their ideas, a reporter to report back the groups ideas when we shared as a whole class. In addition, they were informed by the staff that everyone’s contribution to the group discussion was important.
3. The students, in groups, discussed the many ways they could/do bring the scared teaching of respect into their daily lives at home, school and community. The scribe then kept jot notes of important discussion points. The students needed to use specific examples.
4. The students shared their findings with the entire class and then were asked to select one area (either home, school or community) and ‘make their learning visible’ in a creative way.
5. The students were not told what to do but rather what not to do. They could not do a board presentation, a power point or a prezi. The students were guided with ideas such as what were they passionate about, what did they choose to occupy their leisure time. e.g. dance, art, drama, athletics
6. After the students got over the initial shock of what they could not do to make their learning visible their creativity began to emerge and really shine!
7. The students in many classes came up with fantastic ways to show their learning! e.g. create a comic book with characters and speech bubbles, artwork depicting their findings, the woodwork class took on a woodwork project to make their learning visible, skits or drama presentations which the students made props to use and/or wore a piece of clothing to represent their character, digital literacy students created wordles, buffalo poetry and legend creations, rap songs.
Checking: There was a great deal of positive feed back from the staff. This included most students were totally focused on the work, many students looked at respect in our school life and what we do/what we need to do to create a more respectful environment to improve school life for all, students creativity shone and they were both intrinsically and extrinsically motivated, the co-creating and co-problem solving seemed to give most students an entry point towards their learning. I feel the staff and students involved in this whole school project were highly involved and present in their learning which created a positive learning environment within each classroom.
The baseline was a question sheet asking what the students/staff knew about the sacred teaching of respect and what they would like to learn. Also, what they knew about the buffalo and its importance and connection to the sacred teaching of respect and what they would like to learn about the buffalo and its connection to the sacred teaching. To be honest, when viewing the students comments to these questions the common theme was most did not know the meaning of the sacred teaching of respect or the connection to the buffalo. I changed Lesson 2 to reflect our findings from the baseline survey and this seemed to create a smoother pathway into the next lesson.
I wanted to begin the whole school project in February but was asked to wait until later in the year. By the time I was permitted to implement this inquiry project it was so late in the year, staff and students were tired and school life became extremely busy. As a result we never did celebrate the successes and learning from this project and the students did not get the opportunity to share their work with the entire school. I decided, with a heavy heart, to not continue with the culmination activity as I did not want students and staff to view Indigenous teachings as negative as it was something else to add to their already busy workload at the end of the year. This was disappointing for the staff and students involved.
Student’s answers to the 4 questions were richer in that they had more depth to them, used detailed examples within their answers and the conversation around the 4 questions seemed to flow easier as they shared their thoughts and feelings.
Reflections/Advice: I learned that a whole school project is extremely worthwhile as it enhances strong connections between students/ peers/ staff, builds and strengthens school community and creates opportunities to look within yourself and reflect on your individual contributions to home, school and local community. Learning about the sacred teaching of respect strengthened students and staff connection to our school as ‘Respect’ is an important character trait in our school motto: Hatzic has Heart-Honesty, Effort, Attitude, Respect Teamwork.
Next year I plan to create a whole school project around the ‘Sacred Teaching of Humility’ and plan to start this January so there is ample time and less conflicts with various activities within the school. I look forward to a culmination activity of the whole school project where all student’s work can be viewed, applauded and celebrated!