School Name: Montecito
School District: SD#41 Burnaby
Inquiry Team Members: Jessica Vaughan: firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Smith: email@example.com
Matthew Houghland: firstname.lastname@example.org
Heather Kimmie: email@example.com
Brandi Price: firstname.lastname@example.org
Inquiry Team Contact Email: email@example.com
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Primary (K-3), Intermediate (4-7)
Curricular Area(s): Arts Education, Social Studies
Focus Addressed: Aboriginal understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation)
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? We build a deeper understanding of the diversity of Indigenous nations and communities in Canada through an exploration of traditional and contemporary Indigenous music and musicians.
Scanning: This case study was in response to feedback from a previous case study we had completed in the 2017/2018 school year. Through our Coast Salish style weaving project, our school community (staff, students & parents) began to deepen their connection to this place and gain more insight into local Indigenous Peoples ways of knowing and being. There was a strong feeling in the building that we wanted to continue working together as we had with the weaving to deepen our understanding. Our music teacher, Steve Smith, was particularly interested in bringing First Peoples Principles of Learning into the music curriculum at our school.
Focus: We chose to focus on exposure to Indigenous music this year because we wanted a way to show the students the diversity in cultures of Indigenous peoples in Canada. Our hope was that the students would be interested in learning about Indigenous cultures and Canadian history through the arts (music) rather than text books. We were looking for a way of bringing Indigenous pedagogy into our school community as we had done with our weaving project the previous year. Our ulterior motive was to begin to build a framework for understanding the importance of music in cultural expression. In the 2019/2020 school year, we plan to build a class set of hand drums and work with two Indigenous musicians to learn Indigenous Principles of Leaning as they relate to drumming and music.
Hunch: Through conversations with our District Indigenous Resource Teacher, Brandi Price, as we began to discuss the possibility of building a class set of drums and learning to use the drums in a culturally meaningful and respectful way, our team quickly became aware that we had been thinking of Indigenous music in only the traditional sense and as unvaried across the country. We wanted to present a more holistic and unbiased view of music to our students.
New Professional Learning: Our professional learning mostly revolved around deepening our own understanding of Indigenous ways of knowing and being as well as a deeper respect for the diversity of Indigenous cultures across Canada. In putting together the listening program and inviting in Indigenous knowledge keepers, we found that our best resource was the school district’s Indigenous Resource Team. Their guidance and community connections made it possible for us to take action in a culturally respectful way and build connections to local Indigenous communities. This support greatly increased the staff’s awareness of Indigenous ways of knowing and being as well as their confidence in their ability to facilitate conversations with and about Indigenous cultures in Canada.
Taking Action: Our project had 2 parts.
We selected a variety of Indigenous music from across Canada to play after lunch in place of the usual listening program supplied to the school by the District. The music was all contemporary recordings from various genres including some was traditional style music (Inuit throat singing, pow wow recordings). Some of the lyrics were in English and some were in Indigenous languages. The announcers read a short biography about the artists and any information about the song that would enhance the listeners understanding. The teachers were supplied with a page each day that contained the information the announcers read out, a link to play the music again in class, and a set of activities or conversation starters that were classified as a “quick share”, “deeper thinking activity/conversation”, or “taking it beyond one lesson”.
The second part of the case study was to invite Indigenous peoples to our school to share with the students. We had students visit the classes from the Indigenous Leadership group at our local High School come and share their hand drums with the classes, a knowledge keeper and his community drum come to play with the students and another knowledge keeper and Smoke Dancer come to share his Mohawk water drum.
Checking: This project was successful for our community. Many of the students connected and participated with the Indigenous knowledge keepers who brought their drums and music to the school. I feel these visits also made an impact on a number of the Indigenous students at the school as they made comments to their teachers about “the best school day ever” and had a chance to see some of their cultures represented at school. The additional information that was supplied to the teachers to accompany the listening program was used in each of the classrooms and I had comments from a few of the teachers about how much more meaningful the listening program became in the weeks that we played the Indigenous selections. Also, among the staff there has been a sense of looking forward to next years project and a few specific requests to be more involved and help ensure that the learning doesn’t only take place in the music room, but also in their classrooms.
Reflections/Advice: Our school based Indigenous team learned that there is more interest than we were initially aware of in the others staff members around increasing their understanding Indigenous ways of knowing and being. By pairing the listening program with visitors (knowledge keepers) we were able to give the project more depth and connect with more of our school community than if we had simply chosen to use only one of the options instead of both. If your school has a similar interest, I would strongly urge you to connect with your District Indigenous team to get started and make connections to your local Indigenous communities.