School Name: Squamish Elementary
School District: SD#48 Sea to Sky
Inquiry Team Members: Ailsa Lapp
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Primary (K-3)
Curricular Area(s): Other: School community-building
Focus Addressed: Community-based learning, First Peoples Principles of Learning, Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies, Indigenous pedagogy
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? The focus of our inquiry was around building community through an indigenous lens, with a focus on the question “Will deeper circle discussions and practices better support the delivery of aboriginal ways of being.”
Scanning: This Inquiry project built on our school inquiry from last year which stemmed from the first question: “can you name two adults in the school that believe you can be successful?” We took this further to ask deeper questions around our students’ sense of community and took steps to make more connections between students through an Indigenous lens of multi-age family clans. We are now focusing on the 4th Inquiry question of “Where to Next” and how to go deeper with these connections and the Indigenous principles of learning.
Focus: Our original scanning data showed that our students’ sense of school community could be stronger and a wider reach of multi-age and multi-lingual connections would help build this sense of community. Teachers also appreciate direction and support in moving forward with teaching through an Indigenous lens and the family clans provide a great framework for this.
Hunch: Practices that lead us to our hunch include:
• Large, dual-track school creates limited opportunity for multi-age and multi-lingual community-building.
• Teachers appreciate support with incorporating Indigenous practices.
• If teachers become more comfortable teaching through an Indigenous lens in clans, they will be more likely to incorporate Indigenous practices into their own classrooms.
• Students feel more comfortable sharing in smaller, more intimate groups.
• Big buddy/ little buddy relationships are valued by students.
• More connections between teachers and students outside of the classroom enhances a sense of school community.
New Professional Learning: Last year, our school started family multi-age groupings (animal clans) for students K-6. The focus of our clans is on First People’s Principle of learning that “learning is focused on connectedness, on reciprocal relationships, and a sense of place”. To start out, our clan activities focused on fun, team-building and circle activities, created art for our school blanket and to represent each clan, and also participated in various school-wide activities with their clan groups. Clans also discussed ways to help make our school a better place, which resulted in six virtues being chosen as a focus. This year, we built on what we had started in order to go deeper and to help build a framework for Indigenous practices. This included creating a team of teachers to develop lessons plans that focus on a different virtue or “way of being” through an Indigenous lens and circle discussions, ensuring that all teachers are using proper circle protocol.
Taking Action: Our “shared learnings” worked together to develop lesson plans for our family clan meetings that focused on our community virtues and incorporated more aboriginal content – some Squamish language, proper circle protocol and traditional stories that helped to teach the virtue that we were focusing on. We created a teacher resource that included ways to incorporate the First Peoples principles, a summary of the the Circle Forward resource around proper circle protocol, fun circle activities to be able to help students connect with their clan families in a fun way and information to explore the clan animals in more depth.
Checking: A survey was conducted at the beginning and end of the year in which student were asked about their sense of community. The results did improve throughout the year; however our school has been focusing on community in a variety of ways besides clans so it’s hard to tell if any one initiative is the reason for this improvement. I think that with every year we continue to work on community-building initiatives including our family clans, our school community will continue to strengthen. Each student now has at least one other adult that knows their name and has a connection with them. Personally, as a teacher, I feel that I have also extended my family at school through our clan program.
Reflections/Advice: From this inquiry I learned that in order to be authentic and to make a real difference, an inquiry project such as this has to have buy-in from everyone. This is my third year working on a school community-building through a NOII inquiry and I must say that I feel this year has been the most successful because of the collaboration and support I have received from other colleagues. The fact that most of my colleagues support and embrace the goals of strengthening school community and incorporating Indigenous ways of knowing and being into our school culture is a huge accomplishment and it is creating a strong foundation for us to build on.