To coincide with National Aboriginal History Month in June, much is happening in Bluewater District School Board to cultivate deep awareness and understanding of Aboriginal Canadian history and cultures.
Two recent forums, held at the Bluewater District School Board Education Centre in Chesley, provided self-identified First Nation, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) students with an opportunity to network, explore aspects of their culture and identity, and engage in discussion regarding how educators might best support FNMI student learning.
On Monday, June 6, 2016, 56 students in grades 5 to 8 from across the district were invited to a day of celebration, networking and dialogue with accomplished facilitator and Anishinaabe (Ojibway) Cultural Consultant Kim Wheatley. Hailing from Shawanaga First Nation near Parry Sound, Kim used storytelling to engage students in learning about their cultural heritage and the important contribution FNMI students make to Canadian society.
A similar student forum, which was the first of its kind in Bluewater, took place earlier in the spring on Thursday, April 7th. Sixty FNMI Bluewater students in grades 7 to 12 attended, along with a small group of their non-FNMI peers from Saugeen District Secondary, G. C. Huston Public and Peninsula Shores District Schools. That session also featured Kim as facilitator and received some very positive student feedback. The students’ comments from the day are being collated for future use in supporting the learning of FNMI students.
These inspirational learning opportunities also extended to educators. As part of the June 6 event, an elementary teachers’ workshop was held titled, “Stolen Lives: The Indigenous Peoples of Canada and the Indian Residential Schools”. Facilitated by Leora Schaefer, Director of the Canadian Facing History and Ourselves educational non-profit organization, the workshop featured a residential school survivor who shared her experience at the St. Joseph’s School for Girls in Spanish, Ontario. Participants were given time to plan how they might use the material in their classrooms, and provided with copies of a few related books as well as the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action” report for their respective schools.
The same workshop for educators was also offered to teachers from each Bluewater District School Board secondary school on Monday, April 18th. Yet another opportunity will be extended to other interested staff members as part of the Professional Activity Day on September 30, 2016.