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

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE Transitions Study

Grade Levels Addressed Through Inquiry: Intermediate (4-7), Secondary (8-12)

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), Differentiated instruction, Experiential learning, Flexible learning, Growth mindset, Indigenous pedagogy, Inquiry-based learning, Land, Nature or Place-based learning, Self-regulation, Social and emotional learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? To offer a selected group of Indigenous students a community yoga program that focuses on regulation-based strategies to assist them with processing anxiety, behavioral outbursts, and negative thinking.

III. Spirals of Inquiry Details

Scanning: We talked to each of the students about their connections with adults in the school. Some of the students could name one and a few could name two adults they felt believed in them. As a team, we noticed many of our students wandering, searching for places to go, or belong. Our school counsellors came to us to inquire if there was a social or community program with an Indigenous lens available to support these specific kids.

We had worked with Angela Kyllo, a certified Metis yoga instructor, in youth conferences and various school events. We came up with the idea that to further connect these students with themselves, one another, and other adults in the building, we’d offer this select group of students an 8 week, twice a week, medicine wheel yoga program. Teaching yoga through a cultural perspective, students were consistently provided time and space to focus on themselves and their feelings. We heard positive feedback from these students that learning the skill of checking in on their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing was a process they enjoyed. We found that initially students were a little on the quiet side, but as the weeks went by, relationships were being built, and these sessions were something everyone really looked forward to twice a week. We used learning through experience, intergenerational teachings, and being in the community, as guiding tools in order to address the First Peoples Principles of Learning.

Focus: The Medicine wheel, like yoga, has a person-centered focus initially. From a regulated standpoint, it becomes easier to reflect outward into the world around us as we grow in this understanding. We wanted to foster a greater sense of belonging and an opportunity to practice self-awareness in a school and community setting, as a group with youth and adults learning together side-by-side. We wanted to demonstrate that learning looks different for each of us, but when you feel safe, calm, and a sense of community, you have a strong foundation for it to happen. This can be a positive life-long practice.

Hunch: Some of our students have tumultuous home lives, some wander around aimlessly with anxiety or avoidantly, and some struggle with friendships and social connection. Our learners are expected to instantly “show-up” in their seats and get to work! For some of these kids, it’s just not possible. So, we wanted to teach them a different way.

New Professional Learning: We debriefed at the beginning and end of each session. Consistency was key to the delivery of services and ensured circle-sharing happened each day with staff and students alike. We supported each other by providing a space to check-in.

Taking Action: Adult to student ratio was 1:4. We figured if we were going to be building relationships with these students, there should be as many of us available as possible. Sometimes counsellors would join, a grandma came and read one reflection, and if there was ever an empty space, a student could bring a friend. We focused on building community.

Photo description: At the end of our 9 week session, as a group we participated in a community yoga class at Sweet Freedom yoga. For many of our students, it was their first yoga studio experience.

Checking: Students said on the days they attended our sessions, their mindset was “ready to learn.” They also told us they felt “calmer.” Students started showing up on their own without being reminded, or would even ask the day before if we were still on for yoga. The students became familiar with one another and everyone displayed respectful behavior towards each other in this program.

Reflections/Advice: It is amazing what happens when you create a space for people to show up just as they are. It was a fast way to build a sense of belonging in a group of students who weren’t necessarily connected with one another prior to the program. The students asked to do this program again, and for the ones that are still here, we plan on running it again. We will add additional presenters/sharers/meditation readers from our school community, and more adults to join us.