Reconciliation:  One Necklace at a Time

Reconciliation: One Necklace at a Time

Teachers, A.E. Bowers School -This project started as a general kindness project when a grade team member mentioned Project of Heart. As a team, we loved the idea behind the Project of Heart and decided to put our own twist on it. Instead of making ceramic tiles, we would get our students to paint wooden necklace tiles that we would sell. The proceeds would be going to the Head Start Program on the Siksika First Nation.

Through this process, students learned about the different Nations in Alberta, their rich culture and history. First Nation, Métis and Inuit Learning Specialist, Chelsea Jackson, helped us connect with an Elder. Elder Randy came to our school and we explained the idea to him and asked him for suggestions on paintings. After his recommendations, using friendship and nature pictures, students in grade 4 got to work.

Mrs Bowers was our expert art teacher who guided us through the highs and lows of working with wooden tiles and paint markers. The final projects were spectacular. Some students came with me to the Airdrie Farmer’s Market on June 14 to sell the necklaces in hopes of raising funds for the Head Start program and continue the conversation and awareness on reconciliation.

It was a very successful evening and to date we will be donating over 500$ to the program.

This project along with attending the Ideas Incubator has developed into a bigger project that I will be undertaking next year entitled “Ripples of Change”.

Engaged with the Community

Engaged with the Community

Teacher, Ralph McCall School – When I started out the journey developing Connections as an idea in the Rocky View Schools Fellowships, the aim was always to engage students in meaningful learning experiences.  Inspired by the great work already occurring in Rocky View, such as the WILD program or Building Futures for older ages, our idea was how can we engage younger students in similar ways. Working with administrators and Rocky View’s learning specialist team, we came up with with our idea for Connections.

At it’s heart, the intention of Connections is to inspire students to make social, emotional, physical and intellectual connections with their learning. At the beginning of the year we spoke about how making a connection in their brain, their memory, is a lasting thing. Positive or negative connections are lasting – therefore engaging in meaningful learning opportunities is an important way to ensure kids love coming to school everyday.

The idea itself went through growing pains, or an “identity crisis” – often described as a class that learns outside, I always felt it was and should be more than that. The students should be challenged to learn about the world in a hands-on way that utilizes experts and has a meaningful and lasting impact. From here, the path and the partnerships needed became much clearer. First, was the idea of using the community to improve engagement in the grade 4 curriculum. Then came the barriers to this and ideas to overcome them. Thus a partnership was born with Airdrie Transit, which has provided us affordable transportation to different places in Airdrie.

Suddenly opportunities to visit places opened up. Students visited the Airdrie recycling depot, Nose Creek Museum, Plainsman Arena, Airdrie Public Library, Chinook Winds Park, Nose Creek Park, the Airdrie Cenotaph, and the Airdrie Echo.

With this, came opportunities to engage experts on topics related to our learning. In our sustainability project we learned how to plan for a sustainable community from the City of Airdrie. We learned about waste, learned about protecting our natural spaces with CPAWS, how to plan a garden that provides food through Green Calgary, how to improve water security with CAWST and we examined the food waste in our school. This project was later presented to City of Airdrie Environmental Committee.

Over the winter we connected with an app developer who was looking to try out using their app in schools. Part of this pilot project and study was to offer students an opportunity to dive deep into the Alberta curriculum and share it in a unique and living way. Students were proud this past week to showcase their Discovery Agent’s missions on Alberta and Airdrie history, located in Nose Creek Park, to other students and invited guests. Not only were students able to be the creators of these missions, but engaging them in the competitive aspect of the app and utilizing a natural, outdoor space provided great tools of engagement for students.

It wasn’t always easy: relying on public transit rather than chartered buses requires organizing around it’s schedule; relying on the interests of 9 and 10 year olds; and relying on the weather (as you can see, it can snow in April). Seeing students “showing off” their learning, showing an appreciation for public transit when we walked places instead of taking the bus or when the weather turned and even enjoying our community and remembering their experiences were key elements to finding success in our class.

Discovery Agents testing in April

At we reflect and begin to plan for next year, I can feel confident that students were given opportunities to develop into well rounded citizens, challenged and engaged physically, socially, intellectually and emotionally.

“[student] was eager to apply things that he had learned and even helped us to change some things we were doing in our home. He also became interested in public transit and learned about the C-Train and bus schedules while visiting [family] in Calgary.”
– Parent Feedback

The RJ Hawkey KINDergarten Kindness Ninjas!

The RJ Hawkey KINDergarten Kindness Ninjas!

Allie Apels and Kayla Williamson, RJ Hawkey Teachers – What are KINDergarten Kindness Ninjas? A group of spirited young learners, who have embarked on a journey to spread kindness to each other, their school, their community, and the World.

Our goal in the fall was to create a year-long project that helped our students adapt to classroom expectations and develop appropriate social and emotional skills. We found ourselves inspired by Tim McGraw’s song, Humble and Kind. We loved the simplicity of its lyrics and it’s powerful message. It was through this song that The Kindness Project was born and thus came the Kindness Ninjas. With our red headbands and covert training, we set off on our mission to Change the World with Kindness!

Some of our activities have included: Random Acts of Christmas Kindness(RACKS), making Christmas cards for the homeless in Calgary, participating in Alia’s Rainbow Rock Project, paying it forward on #spreadthelove day, publishing “A Beginner’s Guide to Becoming a Kindness Ninja”, adopting a Panda through the World Wildlife Foundation, making treat bags for the puppies at the Cochrane Humane Society and handcrafting bars of soap to be delivered to a village in Nepal. Currently, we’re fundraising for the Ronald McDonald House in Calgary; donate here www.canadahelps.org/en/pages/kindergarten-kindness-ninjas-mission-to-raise-mone/

We invited Kindness Experts in our community, and from around the world, to come speak or Skype with us. We were fortunate to have connected with the following: Airdrie Project Linus, Stephen’s Backpack, Soap for Hope, Lamb’s Soapworks, Airdrie Angels, Jaime Lawrence, Leon Logothetis the host of the Kindness Diaries, and Grammy and ACM award winning singer-songwriter Lori Mckenna. We’ve had many unique conversations and experiences; many we wouldn’t typically have in Kindergarten.

We’ve been documenting our journey on Twitter and, in turn, have inspired other teachers and classes to become Kindness Ninjas. Our students created 30+ Kindness Ninja Kits and have not only sent them out to our new friends within RVS, but also to Brazil, Scotland, England, Croatia, USA, Kenya, Nigeria, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, England, Hawaii, Nepal, Haiti, The Congo, and Dubai! Our Kindness Ninja Movement is making its way around the globe!

As teachers, we’ve been surprised by the profound impact this project has had on our personal and professional lives. It’s been so fulfilling and inspiring to watch our students develop a sense of belonging and a true identity as Kindness Ninjas. We’ve met so many remarkable individuals, who have amazed us with their generosity. Most of all, we have discovered that you’re never too young, or too old, to become a Kindness Ninja!

Please find us on Twitter @RJ_Kindergarten!

Allie Apels and Kayla Williamson
R.J. Hawkey School

Who Are You? What Is Your Story?

Who Are You? What Is Your Story?

RVS Teacher, Ecole Edwards -The story of our beautiful Canada 150 Identity quilt starts with an old photograph. As the 2016-2017 school year was about to begin, and I began to review the Grade 5 program, I decided I wanted to share my learning about my Metis identity with my students. I realized that I could use my voice to ensure that my students would learn about an FNMI perspective through engaging programming.

While I researched resources for Social Studies, I was reminded of a recent visit to my parents’ place in Edmonton with my daughter. We usually have lunch sitting on the back deck in the warm summer sun. After all the greeting hugs and the delicious food, we begin our family visit. During these times we
usually talk about what is happening in our lives, tell stories, tease one another, and laugh. On this particular visit, my daughter was talking about her newest learning as a humanities student focusing on Indigenous Women in Canada. Mom brought out all the vintage photos in their collection and with that a photograph of my Great Great Grandmother, Angele Chalifoux (nee Delorme dit Lemay). Dad’s Metis ancestry is something that my Daughter and I share a keen interest in. In the photo, Angele is a beautiful Indigenous woman sitting proudly with her mustached third husband George Chalifoux. Behind them is a rough sawn log cabin with rifles adorning the exterior walls. The photograph is striking. Both my daughter and I were immediately smitten.

Old family photo

Upon researching Angele’s life through online archival research, I came to learn that prior to this particular photo being taken, she was in fact one of the infamous Edmonton Stragglers. She was one of 84 band members, mostly single women and their children who were struck from Treaty in 1877 by Timothy P. Wadsworth an “Indian Agent” negotiating the relocation of Papaschase reserve- for not being a close enough relative to Chief Papaschase. As a result, Angele left Treaty and applied for Half-Breed (Metis) Scrip, refunding the government $47 worth of Treaty payments. Angele was widowed, starving and supporting her children on her own. Being struck from Treaty made it next to impossible for her to survive, without a “reserve” community to rely on, therefore she assumed a new identity through the “half-breed” commission. All of this information was new to my family. While Angele was a familiar person in a photo, she also had a story, and a fleeting identity. A story that is well documented by government records, yet a story we didn’t know.

I thought about my connection to this information, and how it had affected the identities of my family members before me, and how it will affect the identity of those after me, and ultimately how it affects my identity now. I also considered how I came to know this. I had to search for it, I had to do the work to learn about this history. At no time in my formal schooling was there a focus on the perspective of the FNMI population and history in Alberta. My Father was taught to be ashamed of his Metis ancestry and identity. He told me that I didn’t have to tell anyone about it when we researched and engaged our Metis membership.

Any knowledge of the Metis in Alberta was not taught to me by formal school history, but through a strong connection to the land and an oral history. Fortunately, my father has always lived with a very close connection to the land. He taught us to appreciate and utilize the natural world in a respectful way. At school, I was the only 13-year-old girl who had experienced handling a hunting rifle and hunting knife, shooting and skinning an animal, and then consuming it. Dad taught us about trapping; showing us his father’s rusty old traps and pelt stretchers. My Grandfather, a trilingual man, would regale us with legends of the Whiskey Jack, tell us stories about his trap line, and talk of his days as a fiddler.

To develop an authentic understanding of a FMNI perspective, I started the journey by carefully selecting a number of historical novels written by Indigenous Canadian authors for my daily read aloud time. My first pick was Margaret Pokiak-Fenton’s Fatty Legs. A story about an Inuit girl’s experience in a residential school. Students were hooked after the first chapter! We also read historical fiction about the other important groups of people existing and surviving in Canada pre and post Confederation who also suffered oppression and hardship. Many books were written from the perspective of a child in the context of hardship, collaboration and problem solving. We also looked closely at archival photos of the First People in Alberta and Canada, and the assortment of immigrant groups to help develop a context for students to make a connection to the past by comparing it to today. Learners connected strongly to the idea that their identity, like Angele’s, is ever evolving.

This rich content led to exquisite conversations and naturally scaffolded activities for highly motivating writing experiences connecting the qualities of the people of the past, the present and the future. Many students have developed a taste for historical learning and thinking far beyond my imagination. As a culminating activity we decided to make a quilt to tell the stories of Canada in the past and the present using symbols to portray the identities of important groups of people in Canadian history. Each child carefully chose a symbol to represent their identity as a young Canadian at this point in time, these are included on the quilt. Students insisted that I include my identity as a Metis person on the quilt, I chose an infinity symbol. Lastly, each physical region of Canada is represented by a symbol on the quilt.

It is the student’s wishes that our quilt is given to a child in need. Our quilt tells the varied stories of the people of Canada pieced together with a common thread of collaboration. We are currently searching for an agency that will ensure that our quilt is delivered to a child who deserves warmth, happiness, joy, hope, comfort inspiration and security. It is our hope that this quilt will deliver those things and so will our community. In my heart, I hope this child has a mother like Angele Delorme dit Lemay; a strong, determined, resilient woman.Canada 150 Quilt

Listening Tails

Listening Tails

Child Development Advisor – Chestermere Therapy Dogs Society (CTDS) was created in 2014 from the heart and vision of an amazing individual, Steven King. He believes that animals, particularly dogs, can add tremendous value to our lives. From this vision, several programs have been developed. The one I would love to introduce you to is Listening Tails!

The Listening Tails program is designed to help children improve their reading skills and confidence by reading out loud to a therapy dog. Each student will read for 15 minutes once a week for six weeks. Prairie Waters Elementary School is so blessed to have two dogs (Shadow and Atlas) and two handlers (Tanya and Sheldon) once a week for an hour and a half. This allows for 10 students each week to participate in the program.

Listening Tails has been running strong at Prairie Waters Elementary School since the Spring of 2015. We have been lucky enough to provide this opportunity to approximately 75 students. The program’s success stems from the fact that dogs love the attention they receive when children read to them. Another key to the success of this program is that dogs are non-judgemental listeners. There isn’t an adult looking over their shoulders correcting them, and no added pressure of an audience of people.

Steven King quotes that “being a volunteer-driven organization, nothing could have happened without the dedication and commitment of the volunteers in Chestermere and surrounding areas who, from day one, have embraced the idea of help through therapy dogs. As an organization, CTDS understands that the dogs are the centre of attention, but nothing happens without the loving care of their dog handlers who give selflessly of themselves each time they attach the CTDS bandana around their dog’s neck.”

Our students absolutely love being chosen to participate in Listening Tails; choosing which child gets to have a coveted spot on the list is one of the hardest decisions to make. Every student who has participated in this program has nothing but positive things to say. Many students ask to partake regardless if they are an emerging reader. The connection our students feel towards the dog is magical.

Our school is a happier place when Shadow and Atlas are here. The dogs bring a positivity to the hallways that is difficult to describe. Prairie Waters is thrilled to have the Listening Tails program at our school and is so appreciative of the dedication and commitment that Tanya and Sheldon have for bringing the dogs once a week from September to June.

The Listening Tails program is truly a win-win situation. The students love the time they spend with the dog, the dog loves the one-on-one attention they receive from the student, and the handlers leave our school feeling they have made a difference in the lives of a child. If you have any questions about this program, please do not hesitate to contact me or visit the Chestermere Therapy Dogs Society website.

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