A key aspect of the Network has always been the sharing of learning and experiences of Network schools. Network members embrace talking about how their work is going at various points during the school year, as well as through the submission of yearly case studies. This sharing is vitally important. Not only does it reinforce a culture of collaboration, but it allows for collective troubleshooting, support and refinement of practices.
We know that many schools are working on integrating the First Peoples Principles of Learning (FPPL) into all aspects of teaching, so we wanted to share how Springwood Middle School (now reconfigured as Springwood Elementary) in SD #69 Qualicum, integrated the FPPL school-wide last year, as well as embraced a truth and reconciliation approach to teaching about residential schools. They started with a specific, straightforward inquiry focus:
“How can we create an integrated, welcoming and all-inclusive community for our learners that values First Nations teachings within the diversity?”
Springwood Middle incorporated the FPPL posters and BC Map of First People into all classrooms and linked the resources to lessons throughout the fall. With Truth and Reconciliation events taking place across BC, and with many of the school district’s community members involved in events, students showed a general curiosity toward what they were witnessing. As Springwood’s case study notes, students “wanted to understand what was happening and why.” Students had “many questions about the residential school system for First Peoples along with more general inquiries that fell into three categories: heritage, culture and traditions, and land connections.”
As a result, the inquiry team responded to this curiosity by first presenting a series of lessons about residential schools and then inviting residential school survivors to share their stories with students. This was to align with one of the First Peoples Principles of Learning, which states: “learning ultimately supports the well-being of the self, the family, the community, the land, the spirits, and the ancestors.”
In order to address the need to be “all inclusive,” as outlined in their inquiry, staff members were careful to use a common language – for all students and adults – when engaging with the material. Students also tracked their learning progress using a simple scale: Emerging Awareness, Acquiring Awareness, and Deep Awareness. Regular check-ins with students allowed for learning to be structured and well designed to meet their evolving needs.
A really interesting professional learning that emerged was around how this inquiry approach was also helping prepare the middle school learners for coming transitions: “we learned that preparing children well by answering their questions about important social and cultural experiences is a profoundly effective way to prepare them for transitions, building confidence and sustaining curiosity.” What a wonderful bit of learning to discover.
To read more about this inquiry, you can access Springwood Middle’s case study.