School Name: Montecito
School District: SD#41 Burnaby
Inquiry Team Members:Jessica Vaughan firstname.lastname@example.org
Heather Kimmie email@example.com
Matthew Houghland firstname.lastname@example.org
Brandi Price email@example.com
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Inquiry: AESN (focus on Indigenous learners or Indigenous understandings)
Grade Levels: Primary (K-3), Intermediate (4-7)
Curricular Area(s): Applied Design, skills & Technology, Arts Education
Focus Addressed: Experiential learning, Indigenous pedagogy
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? We focused on building connections among the school community members and increasing our understanding of local Indigenous traditional practices by creating a whole school Coast Salish style legacy weaving project.
Scanning: Our earthquake upgrades were completed over the summer and this fall we all moved into a newly renovated building. The staff and parents wanted to create a whole school piece of art to celebrate our new building. Brandi Price, suggested a whole school weaving project. The previous year, the staff at Montecito had indicated that they would like to learn more about Indigenous worldviews and infusing indigenous content into their classroom.
Focus: Our project can be connected to the ADST curriculum, Social Studies curriculum, Arts curriculum and Career Education curriculum. However, the main focus for this project was to strengthen and celebrate our school community, increase our community’s knowledge of traditional Indigenous practices in our area, and lay the foundation for deep and meaningful conversations about reconciliation.
Hunch: The farther we proceeded through this project, the more we felt that by working on one piece of artwork which everyone had a chance to contribute at multiple stages, would build a sense of community and build connections for our learners, staff, and parents.
New Professional Learning: We began this project by focusing on the staff. While the staff had agreed to the project early in the fall, we felt it was important for the staff to understand more deeply why we were focusing our energy on a Coast Salish style weaving project. We invited a weaver from the Squamish nation, Anjeanette Dawson, to a professional day to discuss weaving with the staff, inform us as to the history of weaving in the Squamish community, and teach us some of the Coast Salish styles of weaving. As we had an experienced weaver on staff, Matthew Houghland, we chose to complete the project without a resident artist.
We then consulted with our District Indigenous Resource Teacher, Brandi Price, before proceeding with teaching the students. Brandi put together a prezi that we were able to use to inform the students about Coast Salish traditional weaving practices and to stimulate conversation about the importance of the project.
When we were ready to begin weaving on the loom, we invited another Squamish nation weaver, Alice Guss, to visit the school and meet with the students to discuss Coast Salish weaving. She shared songs, stories, and games with the whole school and with each of the classes. Also, not formally, she had a look at the project and how we were approaching it and said that she felt we were on the right track.
Taking Action: The process for this project was different from the process we have engaged in with previous school wide projects at Montecito. This time there was more involvement of all members of our school community at all stages of the process.
We began this project by building an understanding as a staff as to why the project was important as well as how we planned to complete the weaving. We then went to the students and the parent community with the same information and asked them what was important to them about Montecito. The team met and created a design together that incorporated elements requested by the students, staff, and parents. Alongside these conversations, the students each began learning to weave on their own personal project (book marks, quarter bags…). These projects were proudly taken home to share with families.
As we began weaving, we created a bulletin board outside the office to inform everyone in our community so that we all understood the plan. Every student in the school completed a portion of the weaving, as well as most staff and we invited parents to participate as well. This turned out to make the connections growing within our community even more apparent because we were all contributing to one piece, and not simply making our own piece and then putting them together.
For the members of our inquiry team, the changes and risks that were taken were more personal. For example, we had the opportunity to develop our leadership, communication, and advocacy skills within the larger school community and participate as presenters in the district celebration of learning.
Checking: As a team we were constantly checking in with the teachers to ensure that they were ready and able to accommodate the time each step of the process required. We found the teachers were very accommodating to each step of the process and understood the time commitment and constraints. Due to this we felt that the staff understood the importance we were building into the project and the significance placed on the piece.
Throughout the actual weaving portion of the project we were often approached by students about the project. While we tried to interrupt classes as little as possible while we worked with individual students, we were constantly being approached by students who wanted to talk about what they had contributed to the project or ask when it would be their turn. When the weaving was around, everyone wanted to be a part of it.
Our final celebration of the project was fantastic. We invited Anjeanette Dawson back to welcome us all, and we had two indigenous groups perform and join us as we unveiled the final project. Each of us on the team was extremely happy with the outcome. We also received many compliments from other teachers, special guests who had attended, parents, and students. Since our celebration, we have had students approach us asking about the weaving and wanting to see it again. We are in the process of creating a way to display the piece and it will proudly hang outside the office in the fall. A few students have even asked when we will be starting the next piece.
Reflections/Advice: This was a fantastic project for developing our school goal of developing connections between members of our community. It required a lot of time and effort to complete a project of this size without a resident artist. We would recommend that you build a core team to lead the project that includes district level staff. Even with all the time and effort that goes into coordinating a project like this, it is completely worth it. We have seen a tremendous amount of growth in ourselves as well as other staff members, students, and parents which has led to a more connected school community.