School Name: Howe Sound Secondary
School District: SD#48 Sea to Sky
Inquiry Team Members: Heather Lafreniere: firstname.lastname@example.org
Inquiry Team Contact Email: email@example.com
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Secondary (8-12)
Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation)
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? How can we make reconciliation more visible at Howe Sound Secondary School?
Scanning: During the scanning process, I spoke with students about the visibility and frequency of Indigenous content in all areas of the curriculum. I spoke with Indigenous learners about their experiences within our school community. I also spoke with colleagues about their experiences in incorporating Indigenous ways of knowing, being, and doing into their courses. What stood out was the fact that Indigenous content is largely still contained within the humanities courses at the school. It was also evident that our school community had not come together to explore our shared history in a meaningful way. It has been evident for the past number of years that the number of individuals who participate in Orange Shirt Day has not increased.
Focus: The area of reconciliation was chosen for a number of reasons. First, it was evident that there was a need for a school wide focus on reconciliation. This year, our district’s 24 Hour Drum was being held at our school, and a full school assembly was planned. As well, our school had not yet completed the Reconciliation Blanket project that has been done by all schools in our district. As these two projects were upcoming/outstanding, and students had not reported an increase in the incorporation of Indigenous content into their courses, it was evident that a focus on reconcilation was needed in order to create a school wide understanding of the importance of this topic.
Hunch: Based on conversations and observations, my hunch was that there is still an idea in our school that the incorporation of Indigenous content and ways of knowing, being and doing happens in humanities, and is largely based on content. This was the central understanding from which the inquiry grew.
New Professional Learning: In moving forward with the reconciliation blanket project in preparation for the 24 Hour Drum, I focused on the First Peoples Principles of Learning as a starting point. I also reminded staff of a handout that had been given at a previous district-wide professional development day that summarized ways of incorporating Indigenous ways of knowing, being, and doing into the curriculum. This was the springboard for reminding staff of the role of education in reconciliation.
Taking Action: The idea for the theme of the Reconciliation Blanket came from our Aboriginal Leadership group. They wanted to focus on learning about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. They also talked about the fact that many of their peers did not know much about this issue. As a result, the decision was made for our blanket to be based on the school community learning about this issue. Each class in the school was given red, white, and black felt. Teachers were sent a link to a video about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, a PowerPoint presentation that I narrated, and instructions for creating their square for our school blanket. Each square was to incorporate the design of a butterfly to represent the women and girls. Each classroom teacher approached this in a different way, but most students in our school saw the video and the PowerPoint, and so we all learned about the issue together. I also made myself available during my prep time, and was invited into many classes to help with the project. The squares of the blanket were completed by classes, and displayed in the gym during this year’s 24 Hour Drum presentation by our district’s Aboriginal Leadership groups. In this way, not only was our learning coordnated as a school, but also made visible in an important way.
Checking: The fact that our reconciliation blanket was done this year was a huge step for our school. This is just the beginning, though. Now that our school community has seen the power of reconciliation I am hopeful that we all feel the moral imperative to continue making reconciliation a key part of our school culture.
Reflections/Advice: Next year, the plan is to continue on this journey by revisiting the First Peoples Principles of Learning and ways of incorporating Aboriginal ways of knowing, being, and doing into our school culture. My biggest learning this year is that my colleagues are looking for somewhere to start. Providing the resources opened many doors and began many conversations between staff and students. It was also important for our school community to see how their work positively impacted the Aboriginal Leadership students. I think that being able to see that impact is meaningful and will help to continue our journey next year.