Culture and community in the classroom benefit Indigenous students

February 11, 2015

Indigenous K-12 students across Canada are benefiting from a variety of programs and resources that incorporate into their education elements of their cultures and histories. In Ontario, the Kenjgewin Teg Educational Institute recently hosted a conference that included a workshop led by Kelly Crawford on bringing Treaty education to the classroom. Crawford, a member of the M’Chigeeng First Nation and PhD student at Laurentian University, recently developed a teacher’s guide for the “We are all Treaty People” resource kit, which is designed for grades 1 through 8. The guide helps teachers incorporate Treaty education into the class, with a goal of “connect[ing students] to the content at a deeper level as they see themselves as having a responsibility in the treaty relationship.” Programs developed through United Way’s Aboriginal Youth and Education Strategy (AYES), meanwhile, support Aboriginal students in Calgary. The AYES programs, such as Aboriginal Pride and Circle of Support, are designed to be fluid and adaptive, and connect students with culture and community to support the learning process. Educators involved with the program point to improved high-school completion rates and individual success stories as proof the programs are working. Connecting to the local community is key to teaching, especially in remote and rural First Nations, says teacher and Lakehead University PhD student Melissa Oskineegish, who previously taught grades 7 and 8 in a northern First Nation community. Oskineegish found that students weren’t engaging with her lessons until she began including the students in lessons and in the community through a student-run newsletter. Anishnabek News | Alberta Sweetgrass | CBC