One of the biggest and most intimidating challenges for myself, was presenting Aboriginal content as I felt that I lacked any authentic cultural understanding. Additionally, there is minimal inclusion of First Nations topics within the grade one and two curriculum to act as a guide. With that being said, the direction that I took aimed to tie in Aboriginal content and make connections of parallels between cultures for an audience whom had little to no exposure. I was interested for my own practice in how I could deliver the content to my young class, but also how similar topics could be expanded in depth for older students or an intermediate class. Ultimately, my question was…
“How could I make Aboriginal content culturally relevant for my class?”
The use of storytelling in cohesion with my science lesson:
As I taught my life cycles unit and salmon lesson, I saw an opportunity to tie in the relevance of the First Salmon Ceremony and the importance of spirituality and sustainability within the salmon life cycle of the First Nations. Originally I had purchased First Salmon by Roxane Beauclair Salonen however I found the book to be better suited for a grade three to four level. I was able to find P’ésk’a and the First Salmon Ceremony by Scot Ritchie which provided a setting and pictures that allowed my students to discuss the importance of the cycle to tradition. Roxane’s book also highlighted the traditions but included aspects of life and death and its similarities to the salmon life cycle as well.
I was able to find a worksheet on bridging the First Salmon Ceremony to one’s own life which would provide opportunities for reflection and comparing and contrasting for older students.
The use of a talking circle to reflect and discuss pink-shirt day:
The talking circle and the use of an object of power has long played a role in Aboriginal healing and governance and I felt that it was something that was applicable to my lesson on bullying and friendship. I found that my students were engaged in this activity and that all my students respected the object of power for talking. I explained to my students that this format was a respectful way for brainstorming and problem solving that had long been used in Aboriginal culture. With all the ideas and feelings that we accumulated through our discussion, the students were able to take those ideas to create their pink-shirt art activity. After experiencing the use of the talking circle, I realized that ultimately it could be used in my practice at any level of discussion and for any subject. It is a format that helps teach students to actively listen and regulate themselves as well. As students get older, the connections to Aboriginal governance and the parallels to western governance can be compared and contrasted as well. A difficult aspect which I had not considered however, was the challenge of having ELL students participate fully. Although they had trouble communicating their thoughts, they understood the rules.
Above you can see our pink shirts that we had hung up after our talking circle.
If using a talking circle and an object of power, you may refer to this guide as I did before implementing it into my lesson: Talking Circle Guide