Public board working to include Native culture in classrooms

By Ken Johnston
Editor

The Rainy River District School Board has begun a process to inject local First Nations histories, teaching and culture into its curriculum.
Two weeks ago, the board held its regular monthly meeting at Rainy River High School, and heard from Aboriginal Early Learning Liaisons Shelley Jones and Wendy Orchard.
The pair explained how they are utilizing a book called Seven Sacred Teachings. However, the program, which has had the input of well known First Nations people like author David Bouchard, is being localized.
A Sacred Learning kit has been developed but instead of using the teachings in the model kit, they are using local Ojibway beliefs, history and culture. The kit is called The Aboriginal Perspectives Teacher’s Toolkit.
Jones and Orchard have developed an interactive smart board curriculum using the book with the local changes. “The kids from Mine Centre, Crossroads and Riverview Schools are all connected and can interact on the curriculum. Those schools all currently have the book Navajo Code Talkers and can read it and talk to each other about it.”
Jones has been busy focusing on links between Aboriginal communities, schools, parents and the kids. Goals of their efforts are as follows:
•To develop and strengthen the school, family and community connections for long term development of the kids
•To increase awareness and understanding of our history, traditions, culture and language in the Early Learning program
•To direct and assist families to access the school and community resources that support the education of the kids
•To encourage learning at home and work with surrounding First Nation communities to develop readiness strategies for preschoolers.
Jones said one thing she discovered from home visits was, “The kids do not feel welcome when they arrive in the school system.”