Hatzic Middle School SD#75 Mission

I. General Information

School Name: Hatzic Middle School

School District: SD#75 Mission

Inquiry Team Members: Lyn O’Grady (teacher): lyn.ogrady@mpsd.ca, Marchi Gabriele (Principal): marcello.gabriele@mpsd.ca

Inquiry Team Contact Name/Email: Lyn O’Grady/lyn.ogrady@mpsd.ca

II. Inquiry Project Information

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE

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

Curricular Areas Addressed:

  • Language Arts – Literacy
  • Language Arts – Oral Language
  • Language Arts – Reading
  • Language Arts – Writing

Focus Addressed:

  • Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation)
  • Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving)
  • First Peoples Principles of Learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? This year I was hoping to weave Indigenous culture throughout my Gr. 7 and Gr. 8 English classes to enhance students’ knowledge and understanding of Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing using several resources.

III. Spirals of Inquiry Details

Scanning: I used the 4 key questions with both my Gr. 7 English classes and my Gr. 8 English class, but not all my classes as I originally had planned. We discussed each question and what it meant as many students did not seem to ‘get it’ as they say. I thought maybe it was the way I explained the work and maybe I need to change something in my practice. What I noticed from the students’ responses, is that they wrote mainly about staff who made them feel great about themselves, increased their self-esteem and who always made positive comments about their work or themselves personally. The students seemed to be looking for reassurance and who they could turn to in times of need.

I invited the students to form groups and then choose one of the First Peoples Principles of Learning to discuss what it meant and how they could bring it to their lives. This proved interesting as a few groups did not know what the principle meant and struggled with this task. Gr. 8 students were more confident about their thoughts and sharing their findings. This entire activity inspired great class discussion.

Focus: I selected this area as I was unsure of what Indigenous knowledge the Indigenous and non-Indigenous students were bringing with them to class. In addition, I strive to weave a great deal of Indigenous culture/education throughout my curriculum and aspire to teach a total Indigenous curriculum one day. I chose these literacy areas as I thought the students could hopefully make connections to themselves and their lived experiences if I provided support and guidance. I also wanted to extend on what my learners and I explored and discovered last year during our literacy inquiry.

Hunch: Again this year we were not able to have our Indigenous educators come to our classrooms to compliment our learning with their fantastic Indigenous presentations. We were lucky to have 2 in-person presentations and the students really benefitted from the personal interaction and discussions that developed. It was wonderful as it had been a long time since the students had presenters in their classroom!

Many staff continue to be hesitant to teach/weave Indigenous culture into the curriculum. It would be great to see Sto:lo culture be a focal point in our school as we are on Sto:lo territory.

New Professional Learning: I decided, as I was the only member working on this inquiry, to bring a few literacy ideas into my classroom practice. They included:
1. Celeb of the Month – each month the class would find a local Indigenous, Canadian (in that order) who was passionate about their skill/dream and had worked diligently and made a difference in Canada/Internationally. We would alternate between female and male. I decided to include this to help students become aware of the talented and gifted Indigenous people in their local community. Also, I was hoping the students would learn about the challenges people can face as they strive to pursue their passion to fulfill their dream.
2. Indigenous Novel Study Booklet – last year I created a booklet based only on Indigenous culture as I had not found what I needed/wanted to use, and I felt this would be an ideal teaching tool/learning experience for the students and myself. I used writing, creativity and art to provide an entry point for all students. Students can and do express themselves in many ways, not only using writing as a medium.

Taking Action: 1. Celeb of the Month – the students would browse the internet looking for a male/female who was firstly a local Indigenous person, secondly Canadian, and who had achieved a passion/dream. Students were eager to find Indigenous people in their local area. Discussions grew as they discussed ILW (Indigenous Liaison Workers) from their previous schools, ILW from our school, people they knew from the reserve where they lived and others in their communities. The students compiled a list of names that we could discuss each month and selected one for our ‘Celeb of the Month’. We then created a notice board within the classroom and also on the wall outside the classroom with the person’s name in large letters, photographs and a biography (which I had photocopied for the students use). I also created a handout with important facts and a timeline of the celeb’s life which we read as a whole class. The students suggested also placing a ‘Celeb of the Month’ board outside our classroom to share this information with all students and staff at our school. A number of staff stopped to read the notice board and commented, “I didn’t know he/she was Indigenous”. An ‘ah ha’ moment for students and staff ! Terrific energy was generated during these discussions with many positive outcomes!

2. Indigenous Novel Study Booklet – last year I created a criteria page with information that was to be included and marks for each section. The various sections included: Connections to Indigenous Culture, Sketch of an object, Reactions to Events, Character Connections, Important Indigenous setting, and Illustrated Cultural sequential events. Each page of the booklet was designed so that students could write paragraphs, jot notes, draw their images/ideas, and create a sequence of events using writing and illustrating. This year I also added a page called ‘My Thoughts’ as I was hoping to inspire the students’ creativity. I was not sure how this would work but was interested to find out. The students completed a page each day, and they were aware that even with jot notes they needed to search for details in the novel and include these in their writing. Students worked independently on these pages, but were aware of due dates and a specific completion date for the entire booklet.

Checking: I was extremely satisfied with ‘Celeb of the month’ and the focus on local Indigenous people. This motivated students to think deeper, explore further and become more focused on their local area and the fantastic people they have ‘right on their doorstep’ so to speak. The ‘Indigenous Novel Study Booklet’ encouraged students to be focused on their learning as they were given opportunities to express themselves using art and writing. The additional page this year ‘My Thoughts’ proved to be ‘priceless’ with the students’ responses. The students seemed intrinsically motivated as they used this page to express their creativity. The students included artwork, poems they had written, picture sequences, puppet show images with script, and song writing.

They both allowed and encouraged rich discussions in our classroom and students’ knowledge of Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing, seemed greatly enhanced. I made changes/adaptations with the novel study booklet depending on students’ developmental level and inline with their IEP.

This year I did not ask the four questions at the end of the year. The end of the year just seemed to come too quickly and to be honest I ran out of time. I need to focus on this area next year.

Reflections/Advice: I learned that I would like to encourage my colleagues to inquire about and explore Sto:lo culture, as we are on Sto:lo territory. The reason being that each year in ‘Hunches’ I write that staff are hesitant to include Indigenous culture/education. I am planning to present this idea to my ‘English/Social Studies Department’ meeting and also to the Principal. I feel the Indigenous students could benefit as many of them are Sto: lo and they could offer background knowledge, and feel their culture is being acknowledged and honoured. The non-Indigenous students could benefit as they could make connections to the local area and continue to have their learning enhanced.

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