School Name: McGirr Elementary
School District: SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith
Inquiry Team Members:Gregg Halfyard: firstname.lastname@example.org, Kim Dawson: email@example.com
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Primary (K-3), Intermediate (4-7)
Curricular Area(s): Language Arts – Literacy, Language Arts – Oral Language, Language Arts – Reading, 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
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? To increase staff and student understanding of First Peoples Principles of Learning and the Core Competencies.
Scanning: From the April 2018 Student Learning Surveys we found that students did not feel they were being instructed or engaged in Indigenous activities and content.
Question: At school, do you participate in any Aboriginal or First Peoples celebrations or activities? Gr 7: 6% many times, 4% all the time. Gr 4: 13% many times, 9 % all the time
Question: At school, do you participate in any ongoing Aboriginal or First Peoples programs or activities? Gr 7: 0% many times, 1% all the time, Gr 4: 9% many times, 0% all the time
Also, when completing Core Competency reflections, students had difficulty making connections and articulating how they engaged in specific areas of the Competencies.
Focus: We wanted to strengthen the students understanding of First Peoples Principles of Learning in authentic, engaging ways while respecting and acknowledging the local Indigenous peoples. Also, we wanted to strengthen the students understanding of the Core Competencies. Our hope is for learners to be able to make strong, insightful connections to the Core Competencies and to their personal learning, as well as have a deeper understanding of Aboriginal Understandings.
Hunch: *Educators did not have access to authentic Indigenous resources.
*Educators wanted more professional develop on First Peoples Principles of Learning to feel confident creating engaging and respectful lessons
*Educators did not have enough knowledge on the local Indigenous peoples
*Students did not know how to reflect on their learning
*Students did not understand the language of the Core Competencies
New Professional Learning: Professional Development – To Deepen Our Understanding: Art Gallery- Reconciliation Through Art, Reconciliation Through Indigenous Education – UBC Certification, Nanaimo Art Gallery – How can we speak differently and Examining Authentic Indigenous Stories as a staff. The opportunity to have mentors from the Nanaimo Art Gallery gave us a deeper understanding of how to incorporate First Peoples Principles of Learning is new engaging ways that respected the local Indigenous Peoples. We had the opportunity to have valuable conversions and hands on experiences. Also, Adrienne Gear’s We Are All Connected: Exploring Self, Family, Community and Land through Aboriginal Picture had many excellent lessons and activities we used within the classroom. The book also outlined many excellent resources to use within the classroom.
One book that was integral to our inquiry was The Six Cedar Trees. Within the book are six Indigenous spirit animals connecting to the Core Competencies. This book helped guide McGirr Clans and strengthen our understanding of the Core Competencies.
Taking Action: 1) We created Clans at McGirr McGirr Clans to create a sense of community at McGirr from Kindergarten to Grade7, educate students on the Core Competencies and promote Aboriginal Understandings and First Peoples Principles of Learning. All staff and students withing McGirr were split up into 6 clans, each representing a spirit animal and core competency. Through out the year we did various cross grade clan activities.
2) Used the book The Six Cedar Trees to teach how to reflect on the Core Competencies. Students would write a weekly reflection connected to the Core Competency.
3) Used authentic Indigenous Pictures in all subject areas to connect to First Peoples Principles of Learning
4) Promotion of the local Hul qumi num language through daily announcements, word wall and songs
5) Connect First Peoples Principles of Learning to engage students in all subject areas, such as Story of My Name, which connects to the importance of our names and family histories. Daily talking circles to reflect on day before and set tone for the day ahead.
Checking: Student reflections and understanding of the Core Competencies have grown immensely since the start of September. From student journals, teachers have seen deeper thinking reflections and connections. Also, in upper intermediate, teachers have seen students make more meaning reflections to the learning, based on The Six Cedar Trees.
The results of the 2019 Student Learning Survey results demonstrate that students have made stronger connection to First Peoples Principles of Learning and Aboriginal Understanding then the previous year.
Question: At school, do you participate in any Aboriginal or First Peoples celebrations or activities? Gr 7: 17% many times, 5% all the time. Gr 4: 7% many times, 25 % all the time
Question: At school, do you participate in any ongoing Aboriginal or First Peoples programs or activities? Gr 7: 13% many times, 3% all the time, Gr 4: 7% many times, 14% all the time
Reflections/Advice: This journey has been an enlightening and engaging experience for all involved. The creation of Clans has created a greater sense of community at McGirr from K to Grade 7, as well as a staff, which is important for such a large school. Also, Clans has allowed the students to have a stronger connection and understanding of the Core Competencies. Through our Professional Development, we have strengthened our understanding of Aboriginal Understandings and First Peoples Principles of Learning, as well as the importance of authentic resources. We have also met amazing mentors, such as Arlene Deptuk at the Nanaimo Art Gallery, who has taught us the importance of respecting the local Indigenous traditions and practices first and foremost. Finally, it has been rewarding to see our students become completely engaged in First Peoples Principles of Learning. They engage in lessons and activities, not as special one offs, but as everyday methods of learning and interacting.
It is our goal to continue our journey in incorporating First Peoples Principles of Learning in an engaging, authentic respectful manner finding powerful, impactful resources. Learning from the lessons of our colleagues and trying new ideas to enrich our teaching and personal understanding. We will also continue to find new professional development opportunities to gain more knowledge.
We will be continuing with our McGirr Clans to further our understanding of the Core Competencies. Clans have created a wonderful sense of community for our large school and have created wonderful learning opportunities for all.
Advice we would give as we move forward to find mentors to help guide you in the journey. They will allow you to have different perspectives and are a wealth of knowledge. Ensure you engage with your local Indigenous peoples and know the local protocols. Listen to the stories of the past. They are powerful.