The province of Manitoba has a strong foundation in Aboriginal education and offers a good example for other districts. It continues to offer its teachers: foundational training, professional development opportunities, and access to resources, in order to better support their growing number of aboriginal students. Here is a document recently distributed to all staff: Integrating Aboriginal Perspectives Into Currricula
I appreciate that there is an attempt being made to get this information into the hands of all teachers. As a teacher of 14 years within two districts, both with a large Aboriginal population, I have never once been provided with resources – I have always had to seek them out.
As I was researching further into the current project being undertaken through the Vancouver School Board regarding an Aboriginal-focused seperate school for K-12 I started researching other school districts across Canada who have undertaken similar projects. The Winnipeg School District currently offers two Aboriginal-focused school programs. The Niji Mahkwa Elementary School and the Children of the Earth High School. The school district has also recently piloted an Ojibwe Language class for 360+ grade 4 students spread out across 6 schools in the district.
I recently watched an incredible documentary by Cree film maker Neil Diamond, called Reel Injun. The documentary includes extensive footage from Hollywood films depicting Aboriginal people over the past 100 years. There is excellent commentary from Native and Non-native: actors, elders, producers, and activists all discussion how the impact of the Hollywood depiction of the “Injun” has influenced how the world views Aboriginal peoples. The cinematography is often stunning and commentary is very enlightening. I highly recommend it! It was the most educational 88 minutes I have spent in a long time!
There has been much discussion over the past week about the need for Education programs to be offering aboriginal-specific awareness training.
University College of the North in Manitoba has recently developed and graduated its first group of teachers based on the Kenanow Learning Model, developed by the Elders of Northern Manitoba. The model focuses on: identity, a place of belonging, community history, responsibility of the family and larger community to hand down knowledge in a broader context. This model offers a collaborative model, bridging the successful components of western education with traditional Cree education practices.
This site offers an extensive resource for Aboriginal education. Created by two university students, the site provides “best practices and support for online learning initiatives that are intended for aboriginal students, elders, educators, curriculum developers, and educational leaders.”
The site also offers an extensive list of articles relating to Aboriginal Education under “documents” and by clicking on the “sitemap” link you will see a breakdown of pedagogical topics from culture to literacy to storytelling. There are resource links for: multimedia, learning objectives, and so much more.
As I listened to Dr. Lee Brown speak of the medicine wheel and the importance of working with aboriginal students’ with a focus on emotions first, I am reminded of a speaker I encountered early on in my career as an alternative education teacher. I had the opportunity to meet and speak with Dr. Martin Brokenleg, a Lakota professor from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, many years ago and I am eternally indebted to him. I was moved by his speech all those years ago, and by his profound book, Reclaiming Youth At Risk, as well. Brokenleg is a founding member of the Reclaiming Youth International organization with Larry Brendtro and Steve Van Bockern.
Their “Circle of Courage” model is one of youth empowerment and is founded not only on current research in learning and youth development but also on native philosophies of caring for children. It uses the image of the medicine wheel and includes four core values: belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity. The model believes it is essential for each individual to experience and achieve these four values but more importantly, that the community must play a key role in ensuring that each of these values are attained, not only to empower the youth but for the betterment of the community as well. I refer to their book and their model often in my practice; it provides an excellent foundation when working with aboriginal youth at risk, scratch that, any and all youth!
The Canadian Council on Learning published research findings in 2009, “The State of Aboriginal Learning in Canada: A Holistic Approach to Measuring Success”.
This model for measuring success was created in consultation with Aboriginal learning experts across Canada and is modeled on a holistic, life-long learning framework. The framework has three components: Sources of Domains of Knowledge, Lifelong Learning Journey, and Community Well-Being. The great thing is that this model does not compartmentalize or limit learning to the school environment, but rather considers learning opportunities that occur outside the school setting and across the life span. This holistic, community-based model of learning and measuring success is such a great model I think it is valid for all, not just our aboriginal students. Check out the flash animated, interactive model as well.
Our discussions this week with respect to need to effectively consult indigenous groups prior to initiating a project like the OLPC project got me thinking about the current Vancouver School Board project which is looking at creating a k-12 aboriginal-focused seperate school.
The school board has held forums with: edlers, parents, students, and teachers in the community and there seems to be overwhelming support for the proposed model. There are however valid concerns throughout the aboriginal community regarding the potential for segregation/racism and a mediocre program that would not place a high value on academic success. During consultation the VSB team was encouraged to keep an Aboriginal Focus; one of the questionaire respondents said, “Don’t just put an Aboriginal label on Western methodology; don’t have the foundation being Western.” (p.7)
Another interesting note posted by one of the teachers who took part in the forums was the recognition that the questions that were chosen for the surveys, and the way the questions were posed may have limited the responses; an interesting take on the potential for cultural bias to impact responses…
The First Nations in BC Portal is an incredible resource that I stumbled upon while looking at the BC Ministry of Education, Aboriginal Education website (posted by Mark). The portal was developed by the First Nations Technology Council (which Doug has posted). It is a collaborative site involving many of the 200+ First Nations communities in BC. The intent is to create a “community of practice” where all of the unique First Nations communities across BC can share information, resources, information, forms, documents, etc. It is a very well organized site with an incredible wealth of information. I found the interactive language maps, and information on their educational initiatives, particularly the Head Start program, interesting regarding the experiential component it offers learners.
Clayton M. Christensen’s book, Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, offers some interesting insights into how disruptive technologies, and computer-based learning are changing the way students learn. His opinion is that a shift from a monolithic model to a student-centric model by way of computer-based learning will revolutionize learning; he insists that meeting the unique learning style of each student can only successfully take place with a computer, not a teacher. His book also provides some interesting and disturbing examples of how powerful technology companies are intentionally infiltrating small communities who have no technologies at all. “Success with disruptive innovations always originates at the simplest end of the market, typically competing against non-consumption. Then, from that base, the technology gets better and better until, ultimately, it performs well enough that it supplants the prior approach.” (p.85) While I see the value of using ubiquitous, personalized learning tools, personal learning environments, etc. to enhance learning, I’m not convinced they are the savior of education; particularly when working within an aboriginal holistic model of education.