Shuswap Middle School SD#83 North Okanagan-Shuswap

I. General Information

School Name: Shuswap Middle School

School District: SD#83 North Okanagan-Shuswap

Inquiry Team Members: Theresa Johnson
Kaeli Hawrys
Mishel Quaal

Inquiry Team Contact Email:

II. Inquiry Project Information

Grade Levels Addressed Through Inquiry: Intermediate (4-7)

Curricular Areas Addressed: Physical & Health Education

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, Flexible learning, Inquiry-based learning, Land, Nature or Place-based learning, Social and emotional learning, Transitions

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? To build social, emotional and cultural connections for priority students in Grade 6 to foster a sense of belonging and community within the school.

III. Spirals of Inquiry Details

Scanning: We had discussions/check-ins with students during their first few months at middle school. We noticed a need to increase social and emotional connections for these students. We considered the first people’s principles of learning through experience to build these relationships. We included support staff of certain students to participate in these activities to encourage learning in the process and when the students return to their classes.

Focus: We noticed that many of our past Indigenous students took a few years in some cases to feel a sense of belonging at school. We thought if we were able to offer social, outdoor/cultural and artistic experiences with their peers this could potentially foster a greater sense of belonging. We were hoping to encourage strong friendships and dependable relationships with staff members that are a daily part of their school life.

Hunch: Learning through experiences and doing activities promotes a stronger connection with the world around you. This is an Indigenous principle of learning. We wanted to explore the idea that our students would build better relationships with staff, one another and connections to the school through these activities. We thought if we focused on a smaller number of kids who needed priority attention, this program could offer them these opportunities.

New Professional Learning: We collaborated with outside agencies in the community: inclusive arts, local hiking trails and significant geographical locations, and businesses that support physical literacy. We referenced the Spiral of Inquiry handbook regularly to stay on track and checked in as a team to debrief after each day out.

Taking Action: We provided feedback to classroom teachers about the day, and they followed-up with students to check-in. This encouraged additional connections. We wanted to include support staff in our activities to build the relationships between our students and the people they work with every day. Prior to each activity, students met in the Indigenous room for a snack and we provided them with a space and time to connect with each other. We mixed up the groups when we transported them to introduce them to other school mates and familiarize everyone with one another in a safe space.

Checking: We noticed that once these series of activities were complete, students checked in with us on a very regular basis and voluntarily. They accessed our programs and resources on a more regular basis. They were also easily engaging with one another because they had made new friends and were familiar with one another and this space.

In a group sharing circle, students shared how much they enjoyed hanging out with us and each other, and how much fun they had during our activities. We even had other students seek us out to see if they could participate in the next one.

Reflections/Advice: We learned that small groups often foster stronger connections. We would like to continue offering these focused groups to our more priority Indigenous students. Our advice is to collaborate! There are many local businesses, resources, and staff willing to think outside the box and offer options to students in need. Just start the student list and schedule a few activities and revise along the way:)