Central Okanagan Grade 5 teachers are learning how to incorporate aboriginal studies into their classrooms.
Kevin Kaiser is a member of the Stellat’en First Nation and is a teacher and education consultant with the school district.
Last week Kaiser, as part of the Aboriginal Education Program, had teachers, librarians and aboriginal advocates take part in a “blanket exercise” which had participants walk through Canada’s history with an indigenous lens, he said.
The exercise uses blankets to show the past, as they unfold to show that even though it has been difficult for First Nations, there is also hope for the future.
Aboriginal high school students also helped with the exercise held at Hollywood Road Educational Services building in Rutland.
“It’s aboriginal students teaching teachers, which is very cool,” said Kaiser.
Kaiser is also the aboriginal chair on the Central Okanagan Teachers Union, which purchased resources for teachers to teach First Nations’ history.
The resources include books, videos and other resources, one of which is Shi-Shi-Etko, a book by Nicola Campbell which is the first book teacher use in the new unit.
Kaiser said the teachers will have support from the program, and guidance on how to teach the difficult issues.
“We created a bit of a support group,” he said.
The new B.C. curriculum requires more First Nations’ content and history at the elementary and middle school levels.
“It’s one of the more exciting parts of the curriculum,” he said. “I say that because I guest teach at UBCO and one of the things I hear all the time is teachers never taught me about residential schools and I didn’t hear about them until I was in university.’”
“Our program’s goal is for every student in the Central Okanagan School District to learn about residential schools.”
The learning starts in Grade 5 with a general overview with reconciliation, that things happened in Canada and First Nations people are still here, said Kaiser. In Grade 7 the students do a “project to heart” which is a collage of tiles sharing words for residential school survivors.
In Grade 10, 11 and 12, students will have an opportunity to visit the old Kamloops residential school building.