School Name: Katzie Elementary
School District: SD#36 Surrey
Inquiry Team Members: Paula Krevesky: krevesky_p#surreyschools.ca
Laurie Vincent: firstname.lastname@example.org
Darla Chalmers: email@example.com
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Primary (K-3)
Curricular Area(s): Not applicable
Focus Addressed: First Peoples Principles of Learning, Land, Nature or Place-based learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? To plant the seeds of understanding of the history of the land we live on and the First Peoples that came before us. (Connecting students with nature and to give them a sense of wonder)
Scanning: Our scan process was ongoing – we knew we wanted to improve our understanding and implementation of First Nations Peoples’ traditions, cultures, and knowledge by exploring the great outdoors. We talked daily about what activities, events and people we could bring in to help explore and expand our knowledge as individuals, a classroom, a school, with families and our local community. We jumped in with both feet, and although we were nervous, we were excited about enhancing our learning opportunities and our students learning opportunities. Keeping the four key questions in mind we found lots of resources, staff and people, who wanted to share their knowledge and experiences with our classes and school. We enjoyed being sponges and absorbing knowledge on the importance of the land and what it had to offer through slides, videos, stories, special guests and discussions. We let the questions and comments that our students made be the guiding force for our learning and theirs.
Example: One of the kindergarteners asked “Why are trees important?”, and this took us on a journey to explore and examine cedar trees. As our journey took off there were lots of challenges with staff changes, and then Covid-19, but we did not let that get in our way — it only made us dig deeper to find ways to include home in our learning through art projects and nature walks. By using OECD Principles of Learning and the First Peoples Principles of Learning, it helped to drive our focus by revisiting these principles time and time again, and we used them to reflect on the lessons and plans we were putting together.
Focus: We selected this area in order to provide more hands-on outside activities and experiences to make our students wonder about the world they live in and that surrounds them. We were hoping to develop a sense of appreciation for nature and what the land has to offer, as well as to learn why it is so important to look after what we have as individuals, families and as a larger community and understand the ways of the Peoples that were on this land long before us. We wanted to provide learning opportunities that allowed the students to respond and reflect on their learning while embedding a sense of place and risk-taking opportunities in a safe environment.
Hunch: We were concerned that the lack of public understanding of the value the Indigenous culture has to our background as a country and our ties to nature as human beings, was detrimental to the views we were trying to learn about and encourage in schools. We felt that we were now at the beginning stages of learning how the Indigenous knowledge and perspectives have a positive impact on our way of life, and how we, as teachers and students, could understand, respect and value nature and the people that were here before us. We thought that if we provided more open-ended opportunities, class discussions, and hands on investigation opportunities, we would all grow and benefit. We believe that one of the best things about teaching is that as educators we are lifelong learners and we have the ability to in-still curiosity, insight and reflect on all that we do. We are allowed to be risk-takers and try new things to reflect on our own learning, to become better at what we do. If we can encourage our young learners to be curious and try new things, make mistakes, and share and learn with their peers, it should help lay the foundation for learning to be fun, reflective and engaging.
New Professional Learning: We wanted to utilize our interests and promote learning, as well as hone our own personal understanding of First Nations Peoples. During our studies last summer at UBC, we were introduced to a way of thinking, teaching and learning through “The Spiral of Inquiry”. We were also introduced to The Walking Curriculum by Gillian Judson, and were intrigued to incorporate a number of these walks into our curriculum throughout the year. We collaborated regularly together and included other grades and classes in small and large groups, accessed people in our school or district with knowledge and utilized elders or knowledge keepers, to enhance and support all Katzie staff members as we respected the First Nations People and their values. We began to work toward incorporating a greater sense of past, present and future traditions, along with a stronger sense of nature and community. We celebrated First Peoples culture, knowledge and stories at the end of January, hosting our annual Aboriginal Week Celebrations. As a school we explored and learned about the 7 teachings, saw a presentation of How the Raven Stole the Sun, had class presenters come in, and were enthralled by a dance presentation in traditional dress. This is one of the best events we host and many of our new staff were pleased to be part of such an amazing event.
Taking Action: By utilizing resources — we had such as our Aboriginal Liaison, the Katzie First Nations Members and Elders, in school resources, stories and workshops — we feel we increased our knowledge and practices in order to benefit our students and expand our own understanding and learning. We shared all information gathered from websites, resources and key persons at staff meetings, and set up a shared bulletin board for all staff members to share and add information to. An Aboriginal Committee was established, and members of our staff shared why they thought this committee was important to develop their understanding and learning. One of our LST teachers helped by organizing boxes of resources for each grade level and stored them in her room for us to sign out. All different areas of the curriculum were discussed and everyone was encouraged to add their lesson plans, art work, story books and videos to our bulletin board. Laurie and I visited the residential school memorial, which was very overwhelming, to give us a small sense of perspective. We welcomed the camaraderie of bouncing ideas off each other after attending workshops and motivating each other to develop our own learning. We are both extremely impressed with the Surrey School district’s Weebly site – www.bit.ly/sd36weebly – especially after Covid-19 hit and we needed ways to support and continue our learning remotely with parent support. We both began to draft our own resource pages that we shared on our blogs and Fresh Grade sites with families, each other and staff.
Checking: When we look at the differences we have made, we have to start by looking within ourselves. This is because we felt it was important for us to become more educated and expand our knowledge base and understanding of First Peoples’ values and ways of life, before we could have an impact on our students learning and thinking. Attending more workshops with an Aboriginal focus helped to develop our own confidence and understanding, so we could begin to guide and help our students question and explore their environment and nature. What we have started this year is just the beginning; there is so much more for all of us to learn. We both love reading and are looking forward to seeking out more resources to extend and increase what we have started this year. Are we satisfied? No, we are still hungry for more learning … but we are proud of our initiative and efforts to put our students at the centre of learning, questioning and asking about differences and similarities between the past and the present way of life for us and the First Peoples before us. Our baseline was simple: We asked the students what they knew about Aboriginal people and their way of life. What we found out was that in Kindergarten we have blank canvases that are waiting to come to life. The change was in the questions the students asked, the excitement they showed as we learned to weave or paint, the discussions on how plants and animals are used today by modern standards compared to how the First Peoples used plants and animals then and now. The evidence was in videos, pictures, drawings and conversations during Covid-19, when students were still engaged, eager and keen to share their learning with us. They completed walks, such as Surfaces, Motion, Line, Weather, Shape and Overhead to name a few, and searched for plants and uses for the plants they saw on walks. We encouraged and engaged them through stories and they jumped all over the activities. Our learners are richer individuals who loved learning with us and remotely with their families. We believe we are all better for the learning we did together.
Reflections/Advice: This inquiry has allowed us to look at our own beliefs, knowledge and practices, and to grow and develop our own thoughts and perspectives on ancestry, history, consequences of one’s actions, and even our own identity within our families, classrooms, school and community. We are both proud of the work we have done, the resources we used and the opportunities and experiences we have provided for our students, staff and each other this year. We feel we truly have “learned and grown” together in our pursuit for knowledge and understanding. We both plan to continue on our journey sharing ideas, resources and reflecting on how we can encourage our young students and families to take pride in our history and knowledge of the land and First Peoples Principles of Learning; we have only just begun to scratch the surface of ways to learn, inspire and reflect during this inquiry. Learning involves patience and time so we have lots to look forward to investigating, learning and trying new experiences as long as we are teaching.
(Please see the power point presentation we submitted as well, as it truly helped us as visual learners when completing this form)