Montecito School SD#41 Burnaby

By September 4, 20202019-2020 Case Study

School Name: Montecito School

School District: SD#41 Burnaby

Inquiry Team Members: Jessica Vaughan:
Steve Smith:
Alexandra Peters:
Heather Kimmie:
Matthew Houghland:
Brandi Price:

Inquiry Team Contact Email:

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE

Grade Levels: Primary (K-3), Intermediate (4-7)

Curricular Area(s): Applied Design, skills & Technology, Social Studies, Other:

Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Experiential learning, Indigenous pedagogy

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? How can our school community continue to deepen our understanding of the history and culture of this place, through an exploration of traditional Indigenous drum making and cultural teachings associated with drums?

Scanning: In the 2017/2018 school year, we engaged the whole school in a traditional Coast Salish style weaving project and created a wall hanging for our school. This project deepened our students’ understanding and appreciation of the history of the people and land on which the school sits, and built a deeper sense of community within our school. The staff, parents and students, were very engaged in learning the history and significance of weaving and enjoyed the hands-on learning. Upon the completion of this project, our music teacher approached our Indigenous Learning Committee about making Indigenous hand drums for use in music classes. As we looked into the possibility of making drums and learning how to use them respectfully, we noticed that our community (PAC & district staff) were eager to continue the learning we had begun with our weaving project.

Focus: We wanted to focus on building reciprocal relationships with local Indigenous communities, by inviting knowledge keepers to join us for our project. We focused on building our students sense of place and connection to the land, by learning about traditional and contemporary Indigenous practices from Squamish knowledge keeper, Alice Guss. Working with a local Indigenous knowledge keeper was important to our project to promote depth in understanding and encourage student engagement, as well as ensuring we were completing this project in a respectful way. Teaching the students about the traditional process and significance of drums (from harvesting supplies through to making music together), sparked growth in reconciliation and helped build connections for our students and community.

Hunch: We began our journey into reconciliation as a community two years ago with our weaving project, and the reaction from the staff, students & parents, was incredibly open and raised many questions. We recognized the willingness of all participants to continue our growth in the areas of reconciliation and community building through another large scale project.

New Professional Learning: Staff, alongside students, will have the opportunity to be actively engaged in learning the cultural importance of the drums, by having the opportunity to meet Indigenous knowledge keepers, ask questions, offer insights and learn songs. We relied on the the teachings of the knowledge keepers, musicians and the district Indigenous resource team, to lead us through our learning.

Taking Action: Our project unfolded in two stages. In October, the staff and students developed a deeper understanding of the role of music in local Indigenous culture, from Alice Guss. Alice is a Squamish Nation knowledge keeper who visited our school during our weaving project. She again captivated our school with her songs and stories. Students and staff learned about traditional drum making from material gathering through to playing drums. We all had the opportunity to ask questions and explore the music and cultural teachings that Alice shared with us. They then were led through the process of making drums by the Burnaby District Indigenous Resource team and Indigenous Leadership students from Burnaby North High School. Alice returned once the drums were ready and worked with the students during music classes to learn how to treat the drums respectfully and play some songs together.

During the second stage of the project, the students and staff had the opportunity to work with Sandy Scofield. Sandy is a Métis musician who has worked with the music teachers in the Burnaby School District before. She has a great wealth of knowledge and talent surrounding Métis music. We invited Sandy to join us for the project because she writes her own music and was able to grant us permission to continue to learn and play her songs in future years. We celebrated at the end of Sandy’s residency with an assembly, during which each grouping of classes played two songs and sang for the school and community. Alice was also invited to this celebration and worked with the youngest group on their presentation. As a school, we were very proud of the opportunity to show our learning in such a meaningful way to the larger community that we are a part of.

Checking: Through our experiences working with knowledge keepers and building drums, the students and staff developed their understanding of the role of music and drumming in Indigenous cultures throughout Canada. The students and staff also were able to experience the Indigenous Principle that learning is experiential, reflexive, reflective, holistic & relational (focused on connectedness, on reciprocal relationships and on a sense of place). We learned by actively participating in the building and playing the drums. As a staff, we are very proud of the learning of our students. The self reflections of the students after the project concluded, showed that they have a deeper understanding of the connection of Indigenous cultures to their environment and the necessity for respect of the natural environment. Every student was respectful in their handling of the drums and participated in our celebration with enthusiasm. The most common ‘complaint’ about the project was that it was over and they wouldn’t be able to play music with Alice and Sandy again.

Reflections/Advice: Our project this year was the second part of a two year focus on Indigenous music. In the 2018/2019 school year we focused on exploring contemporary Indigenous music from across Canada and invited knowledge keepers with a number of different styles of drums to share with our school. This year’s portion of the project was incredibly powerful in bringing our school community together with a common goal. Everyone was able to take part in the learning opportunities with Alice and Sandy, as well as in building the drums. As a staff, alongside the students we learned more about the Indigenous communities where we live, as well as Indigenous communities across Canada. The time spent working with different knowledge keepers prior to the artist residency with Sandy, played a large part in the success of our project.

Through this project, the students began to question why our school has been focusing on Indigenous learning as much as we have over the last three years. They were asking questions such as “Why are we doing all this Indigenous stuff? “ and “What about my culture?” The teachers felt that while they were able to answer the students’ questions, the answers did not seem to spark the understanding in the students that they were hoping for. Next year, as part of our Professional Development Days, we will focus on building deeper understanding and capacity with staff to address these questions in their classrooms.

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