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Halifax Thunderbirds star takes classroom reading program online

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WATCH: A star player on the Halifax Thunderbirds is spending his days teaching students about the history of lacrosse — and the importance of inclusion — through storytelling. Graeme Benjamin has the story – Feb 26, 2021

One of the Halifax Thunderbirds’ star players is teaching students in Nova Scotia about the history of lacrosse and its connection to Indigenous heritage through virtual storytelling.

Before the pandemic, one of Kyle Jackson’s responsibilities was to visit local schools with teammates and teach them about the fundamentals of sport.

But even though they can’t meet in classrooms anymore, he still wanted to find a way to give back.

“What we’ve done is ultimately take our school program we would normally operate with and go in, take over gym class and teach that game of lacrosse, we’ve revamped that into a virtual reading program,” said Jackson.

Read more: National Lacrosse League scraps 2020-21 season, pivots to new season this fall

Since September, Jackson has been reading Akhwatsirenhó:wa – My Big Family, a compilation of lacrosse stories that teach students about the origins of lacrosse, and how that stems from the fundamentals of inclusion.

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“We talk about making sure everyone feels included, but that doesn’t just come from a sports standpoint because not everybody plays sports,” Jackson said.

“And that’s why, to me, this story resonates so much with just the general public.”

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Halifax Thunderbirds launch You Can Play fundraiser – Jan 10, 2020

One story he tells is called The Origins of the Game, which is about the inclusion of a bat and a squirrel through the game of lacrosse, as well as the interpretation of how that story came about from an Indigenous historical standpoint.

“The bat and the squirrel at the beginning were left out, and through different forms, shapes and another they were included in this game of lacrosse that was the animal story,” said Jackson. “And through that, even though being left out at the beginning of the story, ended up being the most integral parts to their team’s success.”

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And it seems the stories are resonating with students. Tarah Henderson, a teacher at George Bissett Elementary in Cole Harbour, says students were engaged in Jackson’s storytelling throughout the entirety of the class.

“We have one student in our class who’s non-verbal, so when they talked about him they made the connection to him about how maybe he can’t talk to us about what he wants to play, but we can look at him and go by his lead,” said Henderson.

“(Jackson) is very good at engaging the students and making sure they’re with him.”

Read more: Iroquois Nationals get invite to World Games lacrosse tournament after being excluded

With the 2020-21 lacrosse season officially cancelled, Jackson hopes he can reach as many Nova Scotia students as possible through this form of virtual storytelling.

“You don’t have to be an avid lover of the game of lacrosse or Indigenous culture to appreciate what goes on with the story that we do read,” said Jackson.

“It’s so much more than just the game of lacrosse and promoting the Thunderbirds brand. It’s making sure that kids of all ages feel included at the end of the day.”

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Halifax Thunderbirds bring professional lacrosse to Nova Scotia – Oct 1, 2019

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