Southern Okanagan Secondary School SD#53 Okanagan Similkameen

School Name: Southern Okanagan Secondary School

School District: SD#53 Okanagan Similkameen

Inquiry Team Members:Rachelle Goncalves:, Tracy Harrington:, Ryan Baptiste:

Inquiry Team Contact Email:

Type of Inquiry: AESN Transitions (focus on Indigenous learner transitions)

Grade Levels: Secondary (8-12)

Curricular Area(s): Applied Design, skills & Technology, Language Arts – Oral Language, Language Arts – Writing, Physical & Health Education

Focus Addressed: Aboriginal understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Experiential learning, Land, Nature or Place-based learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Connecting aboriginal understandings and core competencies through experiential, land-based learning.

Scanning: In our third year of the program, and with a new focus on First Peoples English, the focus for this year was based around storytelling and the connections that are so critical to Indigenous culture. What connections do our students have within the program, the school, and the community? How do these connections impact their learning? Through their journey in EPIC how do these connections change?
Relationships, year after year, emerge as the key component to the EPIC program. Focusing on the role of storytelling in the program this year provided insight for students and our team to make connections to the impact of stories, past and present, to create meaning. The OECD Principles of Learning are the foundation of our work as the students are the center of our work as they build community around social and emotional aspects of learning, while stretching all students and supporting individual differences.

Focus: The focus of storytelling was selected for this year to explore the nature of community building and sharing. With previous years the trend has been that a community is developed with the cohort of students. This year a documentary project was selected to help students discover the power of community, tradition, and storytelling to share experiences. Connecting to the oral history, chap’tik of the local Silyx people, the hope was to engage students in storytelling in documentary work to learn about traditional ways and digital storytelling.

Hunch: The learning culture at our school is evolving and the infusion of Indigenous culture is becoming more common practice. We recognize that this is critical for all learners, not only the learners in EPIC. Our Indigenous Education Advocate has been working in many areas of the school to share this same traditional knowledge in areas such as storytelling in English classes, food sources in Foods and Nutrition classes, traditional clothing in Family Studies where they made baby moccasins to gift to the local people, drum making in English First Peoples as they learning the Okanagan Song to share at school assemblies, and she continues to gift us with her knowledge. It is truly exciting to have so much happening in our classes.

New Professional Learning: With the focus on storytelling and traditional ways the professional learning came in the form of documentaries. As a team we explored the technical side of video production, critical stages of story-boarding, value of quality over quantity when it comes to video footage and the value of an authentic audience. The students created documentaries on traditional food sources of the Silyx people and shared the final products at our year end student learning showcase.

Taking Action: This year we took action by participating in a SETBC project and REEL Canada Classroom. In each project we engaged in activities and professional dialogue with colleagues across BC and Canada. By building community and capacity in the areas of educational technology and Indigenous films the students and our team have learned from others and shared our own learning.

Checking: We are thrilled with the level of engagement with storytelling and knowledge building around Indigenous culture in our school community. EPIC was the starting point for sharing knowledge and we are fortunate that our Indigenous Education Advocate has shared with so many classes beyond this program. Staff and students are all embracing the knowledge being shared and it feels as though there is momentum moving towards a more informed and respectful community.

Reflections/Advice: This inquiry has spiraled into so much more than we anticipated. At the onset of this inquiry the goal was to help engage our struggling learners with a hands on, land-based program with an Indigenous focus. Now the learning has gone beyond that reach and our entire school community, students and staff, are learning about the Silyx people, their culture and their knowledge. Our inquiry has exceeded our expectations.

As our next steps forward we are going to engage in an inquiry around connections and building school culture. The initial inquiry was around a Jr. Academy model, however we have already spiraled in a new direction and implementing a whole school homeroom model branded CORE. The goal of this inquiry is to build community using multi-graded, two-teacher teams across the school to connect relationships, belonging, core competencies and school culture. A new adventure that we are excited to start spiraling on!

Advice is to just start. Sometimes where you start/finish isn’t where you expect but it is all worthwhile work.

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