While Not Quite A “Word,” It Is My Second One For #5Days5Words

Yesterday, I decided to step out of my comfort zone a bit and try this #5Days5Words blogging challenge by Kristi Keery-Bishop. As a self-proclaimed educational troublemaker, my next word is actually not a word, but instead, an acronym: FNMI.

This summer, I’m one of the site leads for Camp Power: a Ministry-funded Summer Learning Program camp through our Board. We have many components to our camp program, but one part, is that we have specific instructors to run an FNMI (First Nations, Metis, and Inuit) program. In the past, this has been a self-contained class, where parents could choose to have their children as part of this classroom program. Then in the afternoon, the instructors shared some Indigenous education with the rest of the camp. This year, we really wanted to integrate this learning even more, and we wanted all of our campers to gain a better understanding and appreciation of FNMI perspectives. We’ve paired with Niwasa, and we have a few terrific educators that have taken on more of a consultant role, as they work with classroom instructors and children to discuss a variety of topics. 

Something wonderful has happened this summer: our consultants have really built capacity among the camp instructors. On the first day of camp, Laura taught the staff and the campers the Turtle Island Welcome. She thought that the Turtle Island Welcome might be more accessible to campers than the Land Acknowledgement, and I agree. What’s wonderful to see is that Laura went from leading the welcome, to supporting a group in doing so, to now having the classroom instructors taking turns with their groups to lead the Turtle Island Welcome. 

At the Hillcrest location of Camp Power, campers actually modified the Turtle Island Welcome and made it their own.

I love the idea that kids and staff are moving beyond saying words to considering the tone, meaning, and power of this welcome, and exploring ways to personalize it. What a great way to build community in a classroom and a school! 

Watching and listening to Laura, as well as our Board consultant, Lisa King, I was inspired to read and learn more about Indigenous education. My readings and conversations have really got me thinking. 

During the past school year, we shared the Turtle Island story with our Kindergarteners, and later made some links to Indigenous artwork. It was quite amazing to see what our kids did!

After this Camp Power experience though, I’m starting to wonder what more we could do this school year. This week, we’ve explore the story of Hiawatha and the Peacemaker with our campers. This is not an easy text, but it’s quite incredible to see how students of multiple ages approach and express their understanding of this book. They are also making some links with our Turtle Island Welcome. At our Family Friday today, some parents even commented on the value of this Indigenous education for their kids, and how they would love to see this continue throughout the school year. 

I know that we have an updated Social Studies Document, but right now Kindergarten remains a separate entity. I just remember the complexity of curriculum expectations in the Social Studies Document when I taught Grades 5 and 6, and I wonder if building understanding at an early age might result in an even deeper understanding at an older one. How might this impact on the depth of inquiry that these older students engage in? And so, while I freely admit that I still have some fears that I’m going to say or do the wrong thing, I really do want to learn more, and I want our children to as well. Our time spent outside in Kindergarten often evolves into a great understanding, appreciation, and stewardship for the environment, and I wonder if this could be a starting point for our Indigenous learning. I really want to reach out to our Board and community partners, including Lisa King, with the hope of seeing what else we could do. Will I make mistakes? Likely many … but I’m not going to let this stop me. I’m not an expert on Indigenous education, and I know that as kids and adults, we need to hear first-person perspectives for our knowledge and understanding to grow. What have you tried, and where might you begin? As I talk with my teaching partner, Paula, come the fall, I’m hoping that my FNMI learning from this summer can be the starting point for much more learning to come.


2 thoughts on “While Not Quite A “Word,” It Is My Second One For #5Days5Words

  1. Another stellar post, Aviva. This is such important learning – not just for our students, but as you have outlined, for the educators as well. Last year, I bought as many books written and/or illustrated by indigenous authors to begin to expose our students to this learning. I do morning messages most days with a word of the day and I devoted many days to the Seven Grandfather teachings. We also used the land acknowledgement and our school wampum belt to better understand that treaty and treaties in general and then some classes devoted time to create artwork and messages that reflected the important ideas/promises they felt came out of the treaty (all of these ideas were first encouraged by Lisa King as well. Isn’t she wonderful?). My next move is one I borrowed from Em Del Sordo, and hang these glorious posters from the OCT (https://www.oct.ca/resources/categories/ethical-standards-anishnaabe-art) around the school. These are all things that help develop a culture of welcome, acceptance and set the stage for some of the curricular learning you mention. I’m excited to keep learning alongside my staff and students about how we can do our part to make our community more knowledgeable and comfortable with incorporating indigenous perspectives into all of our lives.

    • Thank you so much for this comment, Kristi! I will definitely be coming back to it as we do some planning for this upcoming school year. I love hearing about what you did at your school, and now you’re giving me some new ideas to consider. I’d be curious to hear about how your students responded to the land acknowledgment. Did your other school activities and experiences help them better understand what they were saying each morning? What I love about the Turtle Island Welcome is that it can also be personalized: something that I didn’t even consider until talking with Lisa, Laura, and Brionne (another one of our summer FNMI consultants). My goodness these three are amazing! Reading your comment though, I’m also reminded that this kind of school-to-school sharing could be so valuable. I am definitely heading to bed tonight with a busy brain and new thinking. Thanks again, Kristi!


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