Reconciliation should include a commitment to bringing in the Indigenous World Views as part of the learning process. I ask, ‘Would recognizing that we are already moving in this direction be a valuable part of the healing process for Indigenous populations?’
Many traditional methods of teaching are being challenged, and now, in Canada (and elsewhere), we have begun to adopt some of the very philosophies and principles (of course, with different names, definition and labels) that were once removed from our First Peoples when they were forced to attend Residential Schools.
Canada has made a strong commitment toward Truth and Reconciliation in respect to First Nations, Metis and Inuit (FNMI). This is especially important in our Education Systems because these ‘Truths’ have not always been explicitly (or implicitly) taught to children and thus, the inequities perpetuated. Reconciliation, as we know, is a process of restoring relationships or by making views and beliefs compatible with one another. When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released a report in 2015, Canada was faced with recognition of the injustices experienced by the First Nations peoples when they were forced to attend Residential Schools. This is especially important for schools and how we guide our learners today in their journey through this process.
Prior to these children attending these schools, what was education/learning like for them? Did they learn through Inquiry and discovery? Did children and adults learn through experiences? How was learning and connected to the earth around them? Did empathy play a role? What was the role of making and creating in the learning process? Was balance in life important? How did Storytelling impact learning and was it multi-generational ? What about Environmental Education? Family Connections? Community involvement and relations? Was there focus on spirituality and mindfulness?
“Traditional education allowed children to begin the process of observing from the time they are in their takinaakan and learn by participating as soon as they are able; traditional life was ruled by the principle of production from each according to his ability and distribution to each according to his need. (Red Lake, Heritage Centre, Virtual Museam)
Consider the approaches we are using in Education in the 21st Century –
*Inquiry approaches are about wondering, discovering and experiencing the world. This approach is being adapted instead of what is seen as ‘traditional’ teaching.
*Learning can happen at HOME with the family (Blended learning, online learning,Family Involvement, Travel, Discovery, Experiential)
*Education programs include explicit teaching of Environment Education and we emphasize human impact on the earth. Schools are connecting learning to outside environments through the use of natural playgrounds, green walls/roofs and gardens, celebration of the earth
*There is more emphasis on Primary Sources and Storytelling (using digital media and internet for world wide connections, learning from elders, learning from each other, accessing networks to connect to remote areas)
*Mindfulness is a practice seen as good for students mental health and overall well-being and is being adopted as part of the school program. According to Tobin Hart (2014), Long dormant in education, the natural capacity for contemplation balances and enriches the analytic. It has the potential to enhance performance, character, and depth of the student’s experience. Perhaps most important, the contemplative helps to return the transformative power of wonder, intimacy, and presence in daily learning and daily living.
*Teachers are incorporating lessons about life balance and mental health, nutrition and physical health as part of our daily curriculum which includes looking at non-traditional ways of healing and medicine. Here is one example of how we are incorporating Food and Nutrition into the classroom, not as a separate curriculum topic, but in a holistic way, as part of the learning process.
*The term “Maker” is being expanded to include approaches to learning that enhance and develop hands-on skills, inquiry and learning through play or through doing, problem solving and creating
*While the Teacher is still valued as “facilitator” we are emphasizing community and collaboration as a better way to teach and learn.
As I reflect on each of these “new” approaches in education – I am drawn to my knowledge of history and the Indigenous cultures. Are the above approaches to teaching and learning are at the core, inspired from many First Nations Cultures?
While it is true that each Aboriginal group has different ways to express its values and traditions, there are similar themes that are prevalent in each group. As noted in a recent publication from Alberta, ‘ Our Words, Our Ways, 2016, these common “worldview” threads that run through many First Nations cultures are sometimes referred to as ‘foundational worldviews’.
In this report by Alberta Education (2016), there are many examples that connect these world principles in the classrooms, both with indigenous and non-indigenous students. I am not an expert in understanding these principles at a depth in which they are intended, but I can confidently explain how these connect to learning and how classrooms can use these principles (whether they know it or not) as a guiding program strategy.
Take a GLIMPS into a classroom that uses the following approaches to guide teaching and learning…
What do you see?
- Espousing a holistic perspective and that knowledge is holistic
Cross-Curricular and integrated disciplines are more prevalent, as demonstrated by the structures of classroom schedules (less rotary, more time spent in one classroom with one teacher, combining topics into projects). Further, an inquiry approach to teaching is seen as the best way to engage students in real world issues, social justice and global issues. Most recently, classrooms are adapting “Mindful” practices and are emphasizing that when knowledge and learning is approached in a holistic way, students gain a better sense of self and a stronger self-esteem.
- Recognizing the interconnectedness of all living things
There is a strong emphasis on critical literacy, inquiry and using world (local and global) issues and big ideas in the classroom. In fact, the new Ontario Social Studies/Geography and History documents emphasis a connection to real world issues which leads to studies about how land, animals and food are interconnected, the impact of global warming on our health, how oil extraction is impacting the earth, how the use of pesticides are impacting Bee populations. There is an emphasis on teaching students to relate curriculum topics and subject matter associated with History, Geography, Social Studies, Sciences and the ARTS to present day issues.
- Having a strong connection to the land and community
We are inter-connected more than ever before not just due to the internet, but because collaboration and communication are seen as vital components of learning and living in the 21st Century. This allows us to communicate and share with our communities whether urban or rural. There is more emphasis on eating throughout the school day, on health, and on making different food choices. Schools are using the United Nations Goals to guide teaching and learning.
- Inclusion of Environment and dynamic nature of the world in lessons and learning.
Environmental Education is now weaved through all areas of the curriculum. Some schools are participating in community gardening initiatives, community food organizations and local markets are partnering with classrooms as a way to help students to see their connection to the land.
- Strength in “power with.”
As noted in the Our Words, Our Ways Document, In Aboriginal cultures, worldviews reflect “power with,” rather than “power over.” The image for this concept is a circle, and all living things are viewed as equal within the circle. “Power with” is a dialogue, where everyone stands on the ground, face to face – leadership and learning is “distributed”.
How does this look in the classroom today?
Explained in the Our words, Our ways Document (2016):
- Learn from the students about how they learn best. Work in genuine collaboration with them to determine the approaches that are most effective.
- Involve students when making decisions about the classroom. Provide opportunities for developing their skills so that they become effective at making real decisions about things that matter. Work toward consensus.
- Invite older or stronger students to mentor younger or less able students. Find ways to reverse the process, e.g., find a skill that a younger student could mentor in an older student. • Welcome and validate parent input into decision making about their child’s education. Treat them as full partners in the collaboration that is essential for supporting their child’s learning.
(Our words, our ways : teaching First Nations, Métis and Inuit learners. 2016)
While it isn’t often identified as such, it appears to be these very foundational worldviews that are influencing Education in the 21st Century, especially in how our classrooms are designed and curriculum is taught. There are many examples of classrooms and schools from across the globe transforming their spaces into environments that resemble home, enriched places for art and beauty, quiet spaces that embrace comfort and individuality, community and collaboration stations, connection to the outdoors and balance of life.
Curriculum, more and more, is being taught holistically with an integrative approach and disciplines being taught together. Inquiry, design thinking, experiential and project based are approaches that are recognized as strong methods to engage and teach students of today.
Are we recognizing that the very principles that are shaping how we are creating the 21st Century Makerspace learning environments are those same principles that have guided the indigenous peoples for centuries, the very principles and values that were taken from them when traditional school was created.
Example lesson that espouses the Indigenous Worldviews and Principals