Nanaimo District Secondary School SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith

I. General Information

School Name: Nanaimo District Secondary School

School District: SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith

Inquiry Team Members: Rosie Thind:
Kelly Barnum:
Jane Reynolds:
Shayla Billy:
Michelle Smith:
Natasha Bridger:

Inquiry Team Contact Email:

II. Inquiry Project Information

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE Transitions Study

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

Curricular Areas Addressed: Applied Design, skills & Technology, Arts Education, Career Education, Language Arts – Literacy, Language Arts – Oral Language, Language Arts – Reading, Language Arts – Writing, Mathematics / Numeracy, Physical & Health Education, Science, Social Studies

Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Experiential learning, Formative assessment, Indigenous pedagogy, Land, Nature or Place-based learning, Social and emotional learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Two parts:
1) A continuation of building belonging with Indigenous families
2) How do we use pedagogy and curriculum to build belonging for Indigenous students across grades to feel belonging in classrooms

III. Spirals of Inquiry Details

Scanning: I came in new to this school. The process had already been started and the whole original team had left the school. We decided to keep moving forward with the original plan, but also add on to what we saw as needed in the school.

In the Indigenous Education room, we had a new teacher. She spent time with students asking the key questions. It was also beneficial as a “get to know you” activity also. The learners indicated that they felt that they were learning curriculum, but not learning about any Indigenous culture or history in their classrooms. They mentioned that they were unsure as to how they might feel with new learning in the classroom, as they didn’t want to be singled out and targeted. All students indicated that the place they felt they did their best learning, and felt valued, was in the Indigenous Education room. We wanted to explore how to amplify the feelings of belonging from that room to classrooms across the school, and to continue to include Indigenous families on the journey.

Focus: NDSS is a big school. Making connections is difficult. We know that feeling a sense of belonging and safety is essential to school success. We also know that families play an integral role in this.

Typically, when we talk about connection and feeling valued, we don’t attach it to pedagogy. We think it is more connected with counsellors; we treat it as though it is something OUTSIDE of learning, separate, and outside the classroom. We wanted to spend some time merging these concepts: Indigenous students feeling like they belonged at NDSS, within learning spaces and THROUGH curriculum (not only the Indigenous Education room) and connecting family to this work.

Hunch: We saw increasing amounts of Indigenous learners leaving their classrooms to work in the Indigenous Education room. We saw teachers asking for lesson plans from Indigenous Education workers, rather than spend time doing their own learning and planning. In our Staff Profile work, over 50% of staff indicated that they wanted to learn more about Indigenous Education and Truth and Reconciliation. We know that learners feeling “seen” in classrooms contributes to their sense of belonging. We heard from Indigenous students that we were not learning anything about them, their culture and their identity, and did not see themselves in their learning

New Professional Learning: We chose to access an already-existing learning structure at NDSS to do new learning. We incorporated this work into the PLC structure. Our team did a deeper formative assessment with the staff to find out what staff were ALREADY teaching in terms of Indigenous culture, language, history and the First Peoples Principles of Learning. We wanted to find out which courses and which grades were teaching what, just so we could begin to design a school-wide norming structure for a scope and sequence of Indigenous history, culture and language at NDSS. Each grade, each subject. We know the accountability of standard 9 and want to ENSURE that all students have access to this learning, also realizing that this learning is also designed for Indigenous students to feel visible and valuable.

Taking Action:

1) We brought Denise Augustine, Superintendent of Indigenous Education for the Ministry, in to our first whole staff PLC to frame the conversation/work around Standard 9
2) We then did some formative assessment – what are you already doing? We created a staff profile with the Indigenous Education lens
3) We identified where the “holes” were – what’s missing in terms of teaching Indigenous pedagogy
4) We asked both staff and students – What do you need to learn more about? What supports do you need in order to learn this?
5) We had 4 family/community dinners for Indigenous students/families to connect with parents and also ask them what needs to be taught in school
6) We spent time connecting with the local Nation (Snuneymuxw) to bring an Elder in Residence on board (with success! beginning June, 2023!!)
7) We started gathering resources for teachers who needed support in Indigenous pedagogy
8) We designed whole staff/students/school learning during Pro-D, May 5, May 11, June 21 to increase knowledge, visibility and practice of the importance of Indigenous history, culture (hyper local) and language
8) We worked with Elder Sandra Good to talk to students to find out what is missing for them in the school – Sandra has expressed that this will dictate her work for next school year


Photo descriptions: (Top) Denise Augustine came to NDSS to talk about Standard (and our professional responsibility to it). She presented to all staff (including CUPE) and then stayed behind to dive deeper with our Learning Leaders (teachers who lead learning in the building), (Middle) We finally secured an Elder in Residence through Snuneymuxw Nation. Elder Sandra Good will be with NDSS one day/week moving forward. She will be NDSS’ guide for taking action and moving forward with Standard 9 and Reconciliation, (Bottom) NDSS put on multiple family dinners throughout the year as a way of building connection, and supporting students’ sense of belonging and safety at our school. Check out our Indigenous Dinner: Learning happens all around; it never happens in isolation. It included Indigenous students, specifically, all students, all staff and also Indigenous families. This is not isolated and siloed work; it is also a continuous journey.


  • It is evident at NDSS that this work is important and they are beginning to move from accountability to responsibility.
  • We spent a lot of time trying to figure out “what is missing… why are Indigenous learners leaving classrooms and describing the lack of connection with NDSS”. This was mostly because it was a new group of people doing the NOIIE work, so we had to spend this time.
  • We have data to show what is already being taught, and where there is learning/teaching missing in terms of Indigenous pedagogy at NDSS. This will inform the guidance for staff learning next year.
  • The family dinners were well attended; the attendance went up 25% by the end of the school year.
  • Indigenous learners expressed both a lack of connection and lack of learning at NDSS. We have not gathered evidence from the students as of yet in terms of impact. We have evidence of teachers’ learning and feelings of efficacy in teaching Indigenous pedagogy. The next step will be tracking students’ evidence.

Reflections/Advice: This inquiry was difficult in the beginning. We were a scattered group. We all had different ideas as to the direction we were on. We needed to spend some more time finding out more from learners as to the direction to take to make the most impact in terms of Indigenous learners feeling like they belonged in our building. We found that the work could NOT just be done with STUDENTS as learners. We also know that TEACHERS are learners in this case. We realized that the best guidance is to take best practice for classrooms and also apply it to adults/staff (instead of class profile, it became a staff profile).

Next steps include continuing with the learning journey and the full implementation of Standard 9 within all NDSS classrooms. Securing Elder Sandra Good as Elder in Residence for NDSS was imperative in ensuring the work is done authentically and respectfully. We also need to include parents and families in on this learning we are all doing. We know that families and community are integral for student success, also, so they need to be included in learning.