The work done by students and teachers to examine and promote intercultural harmony was recognized during the City of Saskatoon's Living In Harmony Recognition Awards.
Students from John Lake, Brownell, and Chief Whitecap schools received the awards during an event held at the Broadway Theatre on March 21, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Brett Jones' Grade 5/6 class from Brownell School was recognized for sharing their learning and commitment to the values of Truth and Reconciliation with their school and the wider community.
The class spent several months learning about Cree and British worldview, Treaties and the Indian Act. Arts education teacher, Jeanette Campbell, taught the students how to hoop dance, and educational assistants Rayleen Krysak and Shelley Froese ensured that all students were active participants.
"The students have been exposed to a variety of fiction and non-fiction texts on the topic of residential schools and they have been involved in simulations to understand Treaties and the Indian Act that was imposed on First Nations people to colonize and assimilate them," Jones explained. "Students have viewed historically accurate videos that are stories representing the real-life experiences of many First Nations People in residential schools as well as interviews with survivors of residential schools."
Students were asked to reflect on their learning and based on their responses a script was created for a Truth and Reconciliation assembly performance where the class shared their learning with students, parents and guests with the goal of leading the school in their journey of reconciliation with their First Nations and Métis community. Every student in the class spoke about their significant learnings as they reflected on the topics of treaties, residential schools and racism. During a talking circle, students publicly shared their personal reconciliation.
As a symbol of their work, and to recognize the commitment to Truth and Reconciliation at Brownell School, the class unveiled a Truth and Reconciliation display case located in the school's front entrance where all students and guests shared their personal commitment by writing a message of reconciliation on a stone that was placed beneath the glass. The display case was built by Lisa Ferguson, a Brownell parent.
Jones said the work done by all past Brownell teachers introducing students to the impact of residential schools and experiences of First Nations people provided students with a good base of knowledge that informed their learning and experience as part of the project.
Chief Whitecap School
A multicultural art project done through the lens of the school's values, along with citizenship work led by the school's teacher-librarian and classroom teachers, earned Chief Whitecap School recognition.
The art project celebrated cultural diversity while honoring key values of the Dakota people, and served to build relationships with students from Charles Red Hawk Elementary School located on the Whitecap Dakota First Nation. As part of the unique partnership between the schools, students from the prekindergarten to Grade 4 Charles Red Hawk School transition to Chief Whitecap beginning in Grade 5.
"Our aim is to build sense of belonging and community purpose through art, and through opportunities to share stories of cultural differences and similarities as we learn more about our four Dakota school values," said vice principal Chantelle Bilicki.
"After cultural teachings from our resident Elder, and opportunities for students to bring their own stories forward from their own cultural backgrounds, we created painted canvas tapestries to visually represent our four school values of Wisdom, Humility, Courage and Generosity. These tapestries will be hung as a large presentation and focal point for our school, and in the future, as a focal point for our community."
Funding from the Saskatchewan Arts Board, City of Saskatoon, and Whitecap Dakota First Nation allowed the school to work with artist Muveddet Al-Katib.
As part of the school's citizenship education, students in Grade 4 and Grade 5 learned about being good citizens and explored the Essential Citizenship Competencies (ECC) help to examine an issue and the history, beliefs and biases that often surround topics and current events. Through activities rooted in stories and books, students explored specific skills and dispositions related to each competency.
Grade 5 students explored bias and how it can impact the view and perception of groups of people. Students in Grade 4 looked at power structure and authority in society and examined racism and injustice through the lens of the book "Viola Desmond Won't Be Budged." A group of Grade 4 students wrote and performed their own play about bullying and connected it to the citizenship competencies.
While racism was not the central focus of the learning, the framework created a safe space for students to explore how racism is present in society and to discuss how they can take action to change their thinking and address root causes.
John Lake School
A consistent commitment to the values of living in harmony as shown in the art and literacy work created by students from John Lake School earned the award for students and teacher Jeff Elliott.
"We studied the legacy of residential schools and students demonstrated a real keen interest in the stories of tragedy and loss," Elliott said.
"We read novels and took notes on the history, defined terms and looked at the consequences of this era of discrimination in our country's history. They were very passionate about making change. I am proud of their efforts to live in harmony and to participate in the City of Saskatoon's efforts to promote inclusion and reconciliation."
Work created by students tackled a range of topics including racism and transgender discrimination and illustrated the message that people and cultures living and working together in harmony results bonds that strengthen individuals as well as the larger community.