School Name: Mount Boucherie Secondary School
School District: SD#23 Central Okanagan
Inquiry Team Members: Mary Redfearn: firstname.lastname@example.org
Brad Kuhn: email@example.com
Scott Sieben: firstname.lastname@example.org
Inquiry Team Contact Email: email@example.com
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Secondary (8-12)
Curricular Area(s): Applied Design, skills & Technology, Arts Education, Career Education, Language Arts – Oral Language, Language Arts – Writing, Mathematics / Numeracy, Physical & Health Education, Science, Social Studies
Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation)
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Indigenizing School Culture and Curriculum.
Scanning: In Indigenous Leadership, we do continual check-ins with our students and hear feedback on the school culture and community. We recently sent them on a scavenger hunt to determine our school culture and were surprised that, while we have an Indigenous Academy, our Indigenous lens is often limited to certain classes or areas of the school. For a school located just off the local reservation, with a high population of Indigenous students, these learners were not always at the centre of their learning (OECD). We formulated this inquiry project to first of all see why teachers are not incorporating as much Indigenous content into their curriculum as they could, and secondly to find ways to combat these hesitations. With a nation so focused on reconciliation, we recognize that we must first address the truth, and embrace the First Peoples Principles of Learning in all that we do.
Focus: While this project was designed to ultimately benefit our students, in this case study, our learners were actually the teachers and educators at the school. We sought out ways to make accessing and integrating Indigenous knowledge and content easier and more comfortable for teachers in all subject areas.
Hunch: As a non-Indigenous educator myself, I remember the hesitancy to utilize Indigenous perspectives and knowledge. My hunch for this inquiry was that other teachers at my school weren’t excluding these teachings maliciously, but were hesitant to incorporate perspectives in fear of disrespecting a teaching, or perhaps they simply did not know enough to teach.
New Professional Learning: Throughout this process I was able to explore a plethora of local knowledge and teachings. I used resources curated by my own district, past knowledge from my Indigenous Education professors, and did a lot of research for specific subject areas. I was able to compile accessible materials for teachers to incorporate Indigenous content and perspectives into their curriculum, from music and drama, social studies and english, foods and sewing, to math and science. In many cases, I was also able to go into classes and teach the content for the first time, so that teachers would be more familiar with the material for future years. This was all made possible through a “culture block” in which I was a non-enrolling teacher in the last quarter of the school year.
Taking Action: In advance of my “culture block,” I developed generic lessons for each subject area that I was able to send out to departments in the first week of the quarter. This was beneficial as it allowed teachers to begin percolating on ideas and ultimately build a rapport with me if we hadn’t worked together in the past. I was happily surprised with just how many requests there were to fulfil during my culture block! Many teachers were emailing and calling me to research, plan, or teach a lesson for them. We also developed a “teacher relief campaign” where I worked with a leadership class for one week and taught them five 30 minute activities that they could do as a brain break in any classroom. Teachers were encouraged to sign up for this throughout the month of June.
Checking: Towards the end of my “culture block” I sent out a Google Form to all teachers to help me reflect upon these learning gains. As suspected, the biggest hesitation for teachers to incorporate Indigenous content was that they “didn’t want to disrespect the knowledge or misuse it”. Out of 18 responses, this answer had an overwhelming response of 17 selections. Teachers were also asked of their comfort level prior to collaborating with me, and answers were very dispersed. Five folks selected a ⅖ level of comfort, 4 selected a ⅗ comfort, 7 selected a ⅘ comfort, and 2 selected a 5/5 comfortability. In general, the teachers with whom I worked had a vastly different comfortability and were all beginning this collaboration from a different perspective. I was excited to see these numbers shift when asked of their comfortability after collaborating with me. No teachers selected a ⅕ or ⅖ comfort level. Only two teachers selected a ⅗ comfort, 13 teachers selected a ⅘ comfortability and 3 teachers selected a 5/5. This demonstrates teachers who were previously uncomfortable with incorporating Indigenous content into their lessons, are now feeling more prepared to do this in future lessons and years.
Reflections/Advice: In my Google Form, I asked teachers if this block should continue in future years, and if so, what should be the focus. I was thrilled to see that 18/18 people voted that we should absolutely have a culture block in future years! A majority of responders selected a preference for a teacher holding a culture block to work with them directly, to make a lesson plan that will fit in seamlessly with their curriculum; teachers also selected that it would be beneficial to have that expert go into classes and teach the students and classroom teacher the Indigenous content. I absolutely loved working with so many different students, teachers, and subject areas throughout this process. I was thankful to have my academic background in Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Education to help me with some of the baseline knowledge for these lessons, and the opportunity to spark ideas from one of our amazing Indigenous Advocates at the school. This block could be beneficial in any school setting, but the person who implements it must have a strong comfort with and passion for Indigenous education.