As questions continue to surround the provincial government’s proposed curriculum, one school is bringing more Indigenous elements into its learning.
Barnwell School will use the seven grandfather teachings in its classrooms this school year.
The teachings are guiding principles representing community values, including love, respect and honesty.
“The seven grandfather teachings are a fantastic way to bring character education into our school,” Barnwell teacher and the school’s Indigenous ally Tracy Forbes said.
“We started thinking we might use it as a health program and before long our teachers got excited and on board with it being a whole school initiative.”
Students will be separated into groups named after the animal that represents each teaching, with each group learning that teaching throughout the year and sharing what they’ve learned with the rest of the school.
“If you’re assigned to the beaver and that’s wisdom, then you’ll be responsible for learning about that character trait for the whole year. The older students will be reading stories to the younger students, they’ll be carrying out various different activities, then one month out of every assembly we have, each one of those spirit animals will be responsible for teaching their character trait to the other groups,” Forbes said.
“We’ll jigsaw that all together so by the end of the school year we’ve worked through everything at least once and then the next year students will be mixed so that by the time they’re done Barnwell School, they’ll have been each spirit animal at least once.”
Forbes says it’s already popular among the school’s junior high students, with nearly half of the Grade 7, 8 and 9 students participating in a class dedicated to the teachings last year.
“We can lean on them a lot more heavily in September and they can start doing some of the teachings with our younger students.
“It will be very much adult driven in the beginning, but then we hope moving forward that our older students will take the lead on that… and act as knowledge keepers, so they can pass those traditions down to our students and it becomes intuitive for them.”
While the teachings will be used for character development, Forbes feels education is also an important piece towards achieving reconciliation.
“It took two cultures for us to get to the situation we’re at right now and I think it’s going to take two cultures to get us out.”