Nakusp Secondary SD#10 Arrow Lakes

I. General Information

School Name: Nakusp Secondary

School District: SD#10 Arrow Lakes

Inquiry Team Members: Christina Barisoff:, Sheena Delong:

Inquiry Team Contact Name/Email: Naomi Smedbol/

II. Inquiry Project Information

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE

Grade Levels Addressed Through Inquiry: Secondary (8-12)

Curricular Areas Addressed:

  • Applied Design, skills & Technology
  • Arts Education
  • Language Arts – Literacy
  • Language Arts – Oral Language
  • Language Arts – Writing
  • Social Studies
  • Other: Culinary Arts

Focus Addressed:

  • Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation)
  • Community-based learning
  • Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving)
  • Experiential learning
  • First Peoples Principles of Learning
  • Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies
  • Inquiry-based learning
  • Land, Nature or Place-based learning
  • Social and emotional learning
  • Universal design for learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Our focus for the year will be cultivating local and sacred plant knowledge through experiential learning and creating a local guidebook.

III. Spirals of Inquiry Details

Scanning: For our scanning process, we looked at the work completed last year by students at NES and BES, in creating a local-plant and culinary guidebook, then canvassed our Home Economics and Social/Environmental Justice classes about place-based learning. We realized that learners benefited from working with their hands to grow food last year, learning from the land and from local knowledge-keepers, and reflecting on the need to give back to knowledge-keepers while also sharing our learning with the wider community. We decided to begin by cultivating the sacred medicine, sweetgrass, at the Secondary school, to share with other schools in the district and more importantly to give to knowledge-keepers in line with traditional recognition and gift-giving practices in Salish cultures. We are then planning to extend this learning throughout the two terms by exploring traditional resource preparation and preservation in home economics, as well as by creating a cross-institution guidebook with local secondary and elementary students through hands-on outdoor education with local knowledge-keepers and research. In this early stage of the spiral, we are focusing on how our learners express the desire to give back and to work with the land they are from, in line with the FPPL and the development of social responsibility through service-learning. We know this approach will support their learning (and our own) because we engaged the whole school in planting the sweetgrass (for Orange Shirt Day), and have been monitoring student engagement in cultivating the plant and the desire for the SEJ12 class to share their learning with their classmates and elementary counterparts. In terms of specific FPPL, we have focused on how learning takes patience and time by tackling this longer-term project and returning through intersectional justice to the importance of Indigenous worldviews and sacred medicines. Additionally, we are learning from and giving back to the land and traditional knowledge-keepers, while understanding that some teachings are sacred. We are lucky to teach and learn in an outdoor-education-focused district with significant outdoor learning opportunities within walking distance of the school, as well as the greenhouse and garden plot established last year that reflected the students’ desire to learn practical skills about the place where they live. Key OECD principles we have foregrounded in our project are the ideas that learning is sensitive to context and will often be collaborative; we are considering both native plant species, and the non-native, with sacred sweetgrass as teachers with which we are learning about our home and our history. We are also considering the importance of time and patience in the growth and preservation of sacred medicines not Indigenous to place, as a gift of time and energy. Our work is a blend of guided, experiential, and action learning: though we have initial goals and ideas, the practice and learning will emerge through the students’ interests, knowledge-base, and personal growth.

Focus: We selected this area because we were hoping to engage learners in more hands-on, outdoor and practical learning that ties directly both to service for others and a sense of self in place. As teachers of rural learners especially, we feel it is important for students to develop their connections to place (also in line with FPPL).

Hunch: We noticed that there was unused space and also a disconnect between the protocols of gift-giving for knowledge keepers and practice. We also recognize that students spend a large proportion of their learning time inside and at desks, especially since C-19 has begun restricting their interactions.

New Professional Learning: We explored local plant knowledge and preparation through book and online research as well as connecting with local knowledge-keepers. Each was helpful in its own regard, but the most helpful component is the hands-on growing and harvesting aspect, as well as working with colleagues to build the final plant guide resource (local elementary teachers).

Taking Action: We decided to start with indoor cultivation and individual research for the skills we would need, then worked with the students to develop personal inquiry/passion projects that would allow them to engage with the world around them and with traditional plant knowledge. As the year progressed, we evolved in our strategies to focus on cross-disciplinary food and plant learnings and teachings, and working with a local elder on identification and preparation of plants.

Checking: We used checkpoints through the year: current knowledge – developing knowledge – final publication. These allowed us to assess their growth and preparedness for the final living library. We also encouraged increasingly student-led reflection, development, and engagement, as well as having students lead recipes and recipe-selection, teach the elementary kids, and design and edit their own plant guide.

Photo (top): Local plant guide title page

Photo (above): Local plant guide legend 

Reflections/Advice: We all learned more about local plants and protocols, we created a guide to share our learning with the local community, and to give back to knowledge-keepers through gifts of our time and sacred medicines. We also intend to share the sweetgrass we grow with other district schools so that they too can share in our learning and gift according to Salish protocols when Indigenous knowledge-keepers visit the schools. For other schools, we would recommend working more linearly and make sure to start early enough to take advantage of the weather.

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