Pemberton Secondary School SD#48 Sea to Sky

I. General Information

School Name: Pemberton Secondary School

School District: SD#48 Sea to Sky

Inquiry Team Members: Steve Evans:, Kat Ast:, Emma Mulling:, Jodie Petruzzellis:, Tanina Williams:

Inquiry Team Contact Name/Email: Steve Evans:

II. Inquiry Project Information

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

Curricular Areas Addressed:

  • Language Arts – Oral Language
  • Language Arts – Writing
  • Mathematics / Numeracy
  • Science
  • Social Studies

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
  • Flexible learning
  • Growth mindset
  • Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies
  • Indigenous pedagogy
  • Land, Nature or Place-based learning
  • Social and emotional learning
  • Transitions

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Continue to use and deepen cultural and land-based education to centre Lil’wat and St’at’imc ways of knowing, doing and being into the daily functioning of learning at PSS.

III. Spirals of Inquiry Details

Scanning: As explained in our initial report, our ideas this year stemmed from meetings with staff, students, the Satisfaction Survey data, ongoing staff observation/conversations and past interviews with students. Some of the data we analyzed really impacted us, including the realization that 45% of students felt safe attending the school (norm 66%), 23% of students felt they were bullied in the previous month and only 47% of students valued schooling outcomes (norm 69%).

One challenge that we observed in our scanning process this year was the void of losing the school’s Indigenous Cultural Worker. This was a big challenge both for student relationships and connections, and also for our own learning as staff. This led to further initial barriers in incorporating culturally relevant content in a manner that was realistic for most staff. As will be discussed later, we sought some new and creative ways to navigate this, which ultimately deepened our journey. We were able to step back and embrace the First People’s Principles of Learning, and apply the concept that “learning is relational…. And…. takes patience and time”.

Focus: Our focus was to continue to use and deepen cultural and land based education to centre Lil’wat and St’at’imc ways of knowing, doing and being into the daily functioning of learning at PSS. Through this re-centring and reclaiming of space, this will create greater accountability for the educators at PSS. This can be supported by creating ongoing opportunities for teachers to get involved. Increased staff learning will benefit Indigenous students. Based on the challenges we unexpectedly encountered this year, this area of focus became all the more relevant. As mentioned in the previous section, thinking reflectively about this helped us find new, and perhaps, more sustainable ways to do this work at decolonizing education at PSS.

Hunch: Our work this year has been guided by the hunch that land heals, land can provide a stable framework, it can build resilience, foster meaning and simultaneously help us as educators to unpack our positionality. As we follow this train of thought, we consider the question “how might we shift the inclusion at our school beyond the areas of recent growth in math and science?” Our hunch is that it deeply depends on individual teacher personalities, but perhaps using the new curriculum as a structure we can apply this to guide a new model of strength-based assessment. Self-assessment could then be the jumping off point to link land education with a trauma-informed assessment practice.

New Professional Learning: This year we reached out beyond the resources typically available in our school and wider school district. This included fostering new authentic relationships with Lil’wat knowledge keepers and working with them in a number of ways which navigated areas of expertise, Covid and accessibility. This included having an elder, Sawt (Martina Pierre), Zoom into several classes one per week to give powerful lessons. It also included a day on the land with Edwin Bikadie learning about a local village site which was wiped out by the smallpox epidemic of the 1880s. We organized medical plant walks and began working with BC Parks and Lil’wat regarding changing the official name of Nairn Falls campground back to its Ucwalmicts name. This helped us to authentically learn on the land and develop a far more visceral understanding of place. This was further contributed to, by the journey that I began on this year in applying to a PhD program in Educational Studies at UBC. I hope to continue this avenue of learning between land-based learning as a path for Truth and Reconciliation in education.

Taking Action: Future Actions:
1) Start early in the year with authentic experiences that set a tone for the path ahead. Tone setting in a cultural capacity helps to break down barriers and foster safety amongst the learners. It helps to get to know each other better beyond conventional models of instruction and assessment.
2) Go even deeper. We had some powerful experiences this year, but it was still only scratching the surface.
3) There is no such thing as too much learning on the land. More intentional experiential learning is always a positive experience.

Checking: We are unsure how much of a difference we made. We were not able to collect specific data at this time, however, the surface results from this year will be available next fall. Our sense is that we had an impact on the learning for participant staff and a number of students. This would specifically be students that participate in the affected programs: many math and science classes, Indigenous Studies, Middle School, and the Indigenous Leadership program. However, these changes are not even close to enough and we are not yet satisfied. A deeper sense of success will come with realizing these shifts as entrenched within the wider culture of the learning environment.

1) Learning is relational
2) Land and culture heals
3) Land provides a stable framework to address a decolonizing method of assessment and instruction
4) Land can build resilience, foster meaning and simultaneously help us as educators to unpack our positionality.
5) This is a multi-year journey that requires patience
6) Start the work with those interested and you will be surprised by who will join along the way
7) Continuous reflection is important

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