As part of the Middle School Pillar Week, the Grade 7 project focused on outdoor education as well as Anishinaabeg Traditional Teachings. It took a holistic approach that incorporates Indigenous lessons on the Medicine Wheel, Dene Games, The Seven Grandfather Teachings, and the ongoing drinking water crisis on First Nation Reserves.
The Grade 7 classes identified connections between their experiences and those of the Indigenous Peoples of our region. They learned about the Medicine Wheel and the four quadrants, were introduced to the four states of well-being including physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, and discussed the importance of balancing and nurturing each aspect of their life. The students also learned about traditional cooking methods, inventions, and designs, and engaged in cross-curricular activities including survival skills, fire starting, and mitten making.
To ground their learning further, PC’s Outdoor Education Specialist Ms. Hunt, led the students in a traditional Anishinaabeg Smudging Ceremony. As a settler on Turtle Island, Ms. Hunt shared her experiences and teachings, which she was gifted by Dr. Nicole Bell and Betty Carr-Braint from Trent University’s First Peoples House of Learning. The students engaged in the ceremony by setting an intention, adventuring to the outdoor classroom, and partaking in the ceremony while immersing themselves in the nature of the back acreage. Participating throughout the week enabled Grade 7 students to deepen their appreciation and respect of a culture both different from their own and one that is incredibly important to our land.
As a culminating experience, Anishinaabe Knowledge Keeper Kim Wheatly (whose spirit name translates to English as Head or Leader of the Fireflower), a member of the Turtle Clan, met with the students. She shared knowledge, lived experiences, and perspective regarding the Indian Act, residential schools, and the Truth and Reconciliation 94 Calls to Action. Applying this knowledge, the students learned how they could become better allies with Indigenous Peoples to make change going forward. The students then wrote thoughtful letters to the Canadian government to encourage members of parliament to address the ongoing injustices Indigenous Peoples are facing.