We visited Garibaldi Highlands Elementary School in Squamish with our hosts, Claire, Brooke, and Tashi (see our original Canada post here for more context).
We were privileged to be invited to take part in Circle Time with a class of Grade 4 and 5 learners. This class has been building connections with First Nations communities. Circle time involves learners and teachers sitting in a circle on the floor. It is used for many purposes and in many ways, including having a lighted candle in the middle of the circle.
There was a talking stick held by a nominated learner who led the Circle Time by using a familiar opening that included acknowledgement of the local indigenous people:
We are honoured to be learning on the Traditional Territory of the Sḵwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw and St’át’yemc Nations.
Each person in the Circle then spoke as the talking stick was passed around. We each spoke about how we were contributing to the notion of friendship in relation to the learning intention. We were struck by the confidence and openness of each learner as they spoke about their contributions, which ranged from social actions to projects they were engaged in. We admired the learners who openly struggled to think of what to say, but who were not shy to say out loud that they were unsure or not ready to speak. Circle Time was clearly well-respected and honoured by the learners. In participating, we felt safe to share our brief pepeha and to share our gratefulness at being involved. This was a short but significant and meaningful part of our visit.
During our visit, we also learned about the wider context at Garibaldi Highlands Elementary School. The school has a focus on building a common language, and common structures and practices in project-based learning and inquiry, and growth mindsets.
The school has linked their approaches to the District 48 Sea to Sky plan, which was co-constructed by learners, families, educators, and local government over a period of two to three years. This identifies the key agreed pathways to learning for District 48 learners:
- Play and Exploration
- Purpose and Authenticity
The plan also identifies the competencies learners need to navigate these pathways:
- Create and Innovate
- Think Critically
There is a no-grade project underway in District 48 and some learners at Garibaldi will not receive grades as the pilot project begins:
“All of the research and benefits of not giving grades is there, and in place of them we are giving timely feedback to students,” she said. “Instead of waiting and giving assessments in three-month intervals with report cards, we will be sending assessments regularly on the progress of students. We will be sending feedback directly to parents.” — See more at: Squamishchief: Teachers back no-grade project.
With a District Plan that has similarities to our own New Zealand Curriculum, there are some potential connections that you may want to make with this district in order to cross-pollinate.
- What cultural practices have you learned from your local iwi? What could you do to learn more from your local iwi or from your Māori whānau?
- How much importance and reverence do you place on Māori tikanga and reo? How do you model this for your learners?
- How might you connect with a range of educators from around the world who could learn from you with you?
Course: Culturally Responsive Practice in School Communities