September was filled with learning lots of new protocols, rules, and expectations while navigating school and a world-wide pandemic. But once we settled into our new routines, we began to learn together again. It felt good to get back to something that comes so naturally for children.
We finished September with Orange Shirt Day, which lead our work into October. This day, marked by wearing orange, has become a powerful tool to teach empathy. Mrs. Schmitt and I read stories to the entire school (through the intercom) for three days- Lila and the Crow by Gabrielle Grimmard, Stolen Words by Melanie Florence, and Phyllis's Orange Shirt by Phyllis Webstad. These stories were followed up with powerful discussions in classrooms about reconciliation. Students expressed their empathy for the characters in the stories by engaging in journaling tasks in their Visual Journals. Students empathized with Lila who longed for a sense of belonging, for the Grandfather who lost his Cree language, and for Phyllis who missed her family while away at a residential school. These stories are powerful threads for teaching and reinforcing empathy to our learners.
As a whole school, we are exploring the inquiry question “What can we learn from the land?". Students have had so many incredible outdoor learning opportunities to start the year. Being outside provides students with fresh air, mask breaks, and the opportunity to take advantage of the gorgeous fall weather the last 6 weeks have provided. Many classes have gone on community walks. A popular community landmark, the Shawnessy Barn, has given students the chance to learn in a different place from their school field and classroom. Did you know that learning from the land is a form of literacy for the Blackfoot? Many classrooms have taken on our inquiry question with rigor and richness! Below are just a few examples:
· Our Grade 4 French Immersion students are researching Indigenous plants and words (the plants and words of the month are provided to staff through a CBE Indigenous Education Newsletter). Their work each month will be on display for all classes to access (in both French and English). For October, the plant of the month is sweetgrass and the words of the month are the Pronunciations of the Treaty 7 Nations: Siksika (Seeg-see-gah), Piikani (Bee-gah-nee), Kainai (Guy-nah), Tsuut'ina (Soot-tenna), and Nakoda (Na-ko-da).
· Grade 2 classes went to the Shawnessy Barn on October 6 and participated in an outdoor sharing circle. Students noticed the seasonal changes in the area and were guided through a discussion of how the land has changed over time (Sam Shaw (the rancher), the Barn and its history, and the land before Sam Shaw owned the land). The sharing circle provided students with the opportunity to share their understanding of math and nature, and how the two are connected. Students learned that everyone's contributions are equally important, they learned to listen and respect the views of others which reinforces our school wide focus on empathy.
Teachers will continue to design experiences for students to learn from our community's natural surroundings- especially as the weather and seasons change. On October 21, we will participate in Take Me Outside Day. We will launch a challenge for classrooms to go outside for learning at least once a week until the end of June. We look forward to discovering and unearthing the rich learning opportunities that nature holds for our students.
I encourage you to talk with your child about learning from the land as we explore this question more deeply throughout the year. To further assist us in our outdoor learning, please make sure your child comes to school each day dressed for the weather! We will be going outside each day for recess, lunch recess, gym, and learning (until it's colder than -20). We appreciate your support as we take our learning to a whole new level this year!