The Indigenous Voice

I grew up living, learning and playing in Vancouver, British Columbia, on the ancestral and unceded lands of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.  I saw Indigenous people but I did not hear their voices.  In school we learned about a culture that was part of our past.  Not our present. Definitely not our future.  Yesterday on National Indigenous Peoples Day, the first day of summer on June 21, 2019, that had changed.  And to quote an expert on joy, Chief Dan George, ”And my heart soars”.

Raising of Indigenous poles at the VSB – proud moment in our quest for human rights in Canada

In the Summer 2019 edition of the Montecristo magazine, Robert Davidson talks about when he erected a totem in Masset in 1969.  It was the first one that had been raised since the 1880’s.  “…it opened the door for the elders to pass the incredible knowledge that was muted…Before the totem pole was raised we had no idea of their knowledge.  I had no idea that art was so important.”  I think Vancouver educators are hopeful that the poles raised at the VSB this week to advance reconciliation with Indigenous people and celebrated on National Indigenous Peoples Day with 1000 plus people to bear witness to the event, will be part of many positive and productive learning conversations.  I am deeply grateful that Akemi Eddy took her Grade 1 students to see the carvers in process and brought back wood shavings. Angie Goetz was able to support students in transforming the shavings into their own beautiful art.  Akemi also took three of our students with Indigenous heritage down to the VSB ceremony with our ever-supportive PAC parent, Kathleen Leung- Delorme.  These students were able to bear witness to the smudge at the beginning of the day in the presence of Judy Wilson-Raybould and Joyce Perrault.

I was fortunate to meet Joyce Perrault when I was the vice-principal at Norma Rose Point K-8 school in Vancouver.  It was one of the many schools that she was working as an Indigenous Education Enhancement Worker.  Not only was she able to establish a strong rapport with students in the relatively short weekly assignment at the school, but she was a sweet and gentle soul with a plethora of ideas to empower Indigenous students in finding their own voices, and to support non-Indigenous students in applying Indigenous teachings to explore their own pathways.  The hallway displays were inspired, interactive and collaborative ventures created with the Indigenous students she was working with.  She had put together a flipbook of the Medicine Wheel Teachings from her Anishinaabe/ Ojibwe heritage that she had implemented with students over the years.  She was looking for a publisher.  I had no doubt it would be published.  She thought the publisher would use her text and drawings.  I thought that the publisher would use the text and assign an artist to market it as a hardcopy version that could be used in libraries and on coffee tables, as well as a soft cover for use by individual kids.

The publisher smart enough to pick up the book was Peppermint Toast Publishing.  It is a small publisher in New Westminster that publishes one book per year.  They made a wise choice.  Joyce Perrault’s first book, All Creation Represented:  A Child’s Guide to the Medicine Wheel, was published in 2017 with Terra Mar’s amazing illustrations.  The Vancouver School Board alone has purchased 250 copies.  Her second publication is in process to support educators in teaching Indigenous ways of knowing through Medicine Wheel teachings.

This year, as principal of University Hill Elementary School, I did not have the number of Indigenous students, to warrant the assignment of an Indigenous Education Enhancement worker. However in Vancouver, it is mandatory for all public schools to have an Indigenous goal to support the quest to decolonize education. At University Hill Elementary, our Indigenous goal is: To increase knowledge, acceptance, empathy, awareness and appreciation of Indigenous histories, traditions, cultures and contributions among all students in an authentic way.

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Learning to Powwow dance with Shyama Priya

Our teachers took on this goal with enthusiasm.  When I arrived at the school, Melody Ludski, had already taken the lead in having a spindal whorl commissioned by Musqueam carver, Richard Campbell.  He came to unveil his amazing carving with his daughter shortly after the Truth and Reconciliation walk in 2017.  I was talking about how impressed I had been with the fluency of the young woman speaking Musqueam on the stage at the end of the Truth and Reconciliation Walk, only to discover that she was Richard Campbell’s daughter.  And she was standing in front of me.  Bonus! We had amazing teaching that day and our students were able to hear the welcome in the Musqueam language from Richard’s daughter, Vanessa Campbell .  Richard Campbell also shared the process of his carving, from the inspiration in the selection of wood to the finished product.  He also shared that he was a survivor of the residential school system.  Students, educators and parents in the audience witnessed first-hand the pain of the experience and the incredible support in the father-daughter relationship.

Many of our teachers have been engaged in personal, professional development around Indigenous teachings via VSB supported inquiry studies, school based professional development, book clubs and university coursework.  Our students have been the winners.  Delta authored materials published by Strong Nation Publishing have been implemented by primary teachers to teach core competencies. Ideas have been implemented from Jennifer Katz book, Ensouling Our Schools – A Universally designed framework for mental health, well-being, and reconciliation.

Staff got together to plan an outdoor learning space once the portables were removed from our site.  A large circle of twelve large rocks that were big enough to seat 30 students were installed to facilitate outdoor learning.  Some teachers wanted twelve rocks to teach time.  Many agreed one needed to be placed to indicate true north and all of the compass directions.  Some of us were excited with the possibilities for use as a talking / listening circle, as practiced in many of our classrooms, as well as integration of other Indigenous teachings.  The Musqueam have gifted the VSB with the word, Nə́ caʔmat ct, which means “We Are One”, as part of our move towards reconciliation.  I personally love thinking about it that way and calling it that as a way of honouring that our school is on Musqueam ancestral lands and demonstrating our openness to learning.

The intermediate curriculum benfited with the success of The Human Rights Internet Grant (www.hri.ca) for $1900.00 to implement new curriculum with Grade 4/5 students with a human rights lens on our Indigenous people.  Students learned about the United Nations Declaration of Rights and Freedoms which was adopted by Canada in 1959 and the implications of these rights for our Indigenous people.   It allowed us to show honour and respect by inviting Indigenous speakers to share Indigenous teachings with our students.  Intermediate students had inspirational drumming and storytelling sessions with Alec Dan and teachings about indigenous plants by Martin Sparrow in the Pacific Spirit Park.  This Human Rights Internet Grant also enabled UHill Elementary students to share their outdoor learning with students from Norma Rose Point during the Wild About Vancouver Celebration in April.  It also allowed us to invite Indigenous speakers to share their teachings with the entire school including: Debra Sparrow to talk about the replica of one of the MOA (Museum of Anthropology) weavings by her and her sister Robyn Sparrow that we recently purchased and display in our foyer; Shyama Priya to share her Powwow dancing, including participatory opportunities for our students; Martin Sparrow doing the Indigenous Acknowledgement and sharing his teachings at the 2nd Annual University Hill Elementary Multi-cultural Fair; Martin Sparrow sharing bannock and salmon pate at our Earth Day BBQ.  Joyce Perrault was also willing and able to request some of her teaching time allotment to come and share her book with our Grade 3 students and her process of writing it with our aspiring UHill Elementary authors.

Joyce Perrault in conversation with Vincente Regis about Indigenous teachings.

Vincente Regis, a new PAC member, came forward with an idea for a school community Arts Festival at a PAC Meeting this Spring.  He spoke passionately about the Arts Festivals he had implemented in Brazil as an educator.  With enthusiastic support from PAC, we  started meeting shortly after the PAC meeting to begin the planning for the first UHill Elementary Arts Festival.  He very much wanted it to unfold before the end of the school year while momentum was high.  When we decided on the date when we weren’t building the playground, and when I could access staging and tables for the event, Vincente immediately understood the significance of the Arts Festival taking place on Indigenous Peoples Day and the opportunity to honour the Indigenous voice and the contribution to Indigenous people in all aspects of the arts.  He promptly began planning to incorporate an Indigenous song from Brazil with our students.  I went to work to find an Indigenous artist willing and available to open with the Indigenous acknowledgement and put a spotlight on the Indigenous contribution in the arts.

The British Columbia Literacy Council of the International Literacy Association (BCLCILA) is currently going through a period of revitalization and relocation to Vancouver, British Columbia.  Due to the BCLCILA  / International Literacy Association membership of two UHill Elementary staff members and the support of BCLCILA, we were able to invite Joyce Perrault to not only facilitate an after-school session with educators in May, but also participate in the school community event on Indigenous Peoples Day, June 21, 2019 from 3:30 – 6:30 pm.  She graciously accepted even though her morning started with her participation in the VSB ceremony to honour the raising of the 13-metre pole carved by James Harry of the Squamish Nation, and his father Xwalack-tun, a master carver with 50 years’ experience, as well as the male and female welcome poles by Musqueam carvers, William Dan and his family and his siblings Chrystal and Chris Sparrow.  Big day!

Laura Tait, respected Indigenous educator, and current Assistant Superintendent at Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools (SD 68) has been cited to have said “If you want to know about Indigenous culture, make an Indigenous friend.”  That has been the basis of trying to provide opportunities for developing community with our Indigenous neighbours.  I have now participated with Joyce as she has engaged in learning conversations with students, educators, and parents.  Her pride in her Ojibwe / Metis heritage has remained constant.  Her voice has grown along with the number of people wanting to hear her story …”And my heart soars.” And more importantly, so does hers.  Our path to reconciliation needs to include more of these spaces for the development of Indigenous voice and friendships.

Deborah Hodge Talks the Craft of Writing


There is nothing like the visit from a REAL author to bring to life the point that authors are real people, writing about their experiences or imaginings.  We are thrilled to welcome Deborah Hodge to speak to the Vancouver School Board.  Deborah Hodge will be joining administrators, librarians and two students from 55 Vancouver elementary schools at Shaughnessy Elementary School on Wednesday, May 11, 2016.

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Each year the Vancouver Elementary Principals and Vice Principals host an author to celebrated reading and writing with elementary students and educators.  Phyllis Simon of Vancouver Kidsbooks, is one of our keen supporters.  She selects a collection of some of the most wonderful picture books that have been recently published for the selection committee to peruse.  Of course, I love this committee and always manage to find birthday picks for my friends, family and my own collection.  It is also a source of inspiration for possibilities in the school.   From our shortlist of books, we then contact the authors to determine their availability during Canadian Children’s Book Week:  May 7 – May 14th, 2016 to share their book .

For 2016, we have selected a new publication by Deborah Hodge.  This author was born in Saskatchewan but lucky for us, she lives in Vancouver.  Deborah Hodge has written over 25 books for children, many of which provide a plethora of information about nature and history.  Her picture book , West Coast Wild – A Nature Alphabet, has been purchased for all of the elementary libraries in the district by the administrator’s association.   Several schools in the Vancouver School District participated in Wild About Vancouver Festival this year and interest in learning in the outdoor classroom is growing.  The First People’s Principles of Learning have also been highlighted in the Redesigned Curriculum in British Columbia and have opened our eyes to the experiential and reflective learning of Indigenous People who have lived and learned in British Columbia for thousands of years.   Both of these factors, along with the engaging text and illustrations make this book a perfect choice.

Students throughout the district are excited about the chance to meet Deborah Hodge and have their questions answered.    Grade 3 students at Tecumseh have been writing alphabet books about topics they have been researching.  Maria got new glasses this year and has taken off with her writing.  She is wondering if Deborah Hodge saw all of the animals she wrote about in her book or if she did an internet search to find the animal that matched the letter she needed.  Victoria is writing an ABC book about the aquarium and is wondering how the author got so many good ideas for her book. Hopefully they will find their answers on Wednesday.

Special Thanks to  Vancouver Administrators for funding this project,  committee members – Maureen McDonnell and Maria Donovan, as well as staff at Shaughnessy Elementary School for hosting this event.

 

 

 

 

 

Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Bryan Obed

Hump Day Highlight:  This featured blog post showcases amazing classroom practices and possibilities, including books and units of study.

Hump Day Highlight #2 – Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Bryan Obed

I picked up Twelve Kinds of Ice written by Ellen Bryan Obed and illustrated by Barbara McClintock at Mabel’s Fables Children’s Bookstore in Toronto.    Although Toronto was uncharacteristically warm for February, the book is in keeping with my usual experience in Central Canada.   Twenty vignettes as well as pen and ink drawings describe the various types of ice, beginning with the fragile ice on the sheep pails in the barn.  The book reflects the powerful observational skills of the author and her ability to paint a picture in our minds.

Coming from Vancouver, British Columbia, my students and our teachers do not have the same occasion to ponder ice to the extent of the author.  The book does invite the reader to consider the importance of making careful observations so that they are able to create descriptions that come alive.  A good starting point for young Vancouverites would be to start with the many types of rain that we experience living in the temperate rainforest of the Pacific Northwest.  I’m looking forward to trying this out soon.  I can think of at least six kinds of rain off the top of my head, four of which I experienced today.  The sun popped out as the pouring rain morphed into showers after school and a five-year old looked up and smiled with excited eyes and said, “I think this might be rainbow rain”!


 

Anne with an “e”

imageAs a little girl, I do not have lots of memories of bedtime stories and being surrounded by books.  I had Beatrix Potter books from our dear friend, Mrs. Patrick and a collection of Little Golden Books.  I had a set of Children’s Encyclopedias with actual colour pictures of Pinky and The Blue Boy.  School provided Janet and John, Lucky the dog, Buttons the cat and a father that went to work and a mother who stayed home.  Basically the bulk of my reading had no connection to life as I knew it.

Fortunately the librarians in my life helped me to become a reader.   I was introduced to series of chapter books.  I fell in love with Trixie Belden and stayed up late into the night with my flashlight terrifying myself with the possibilities.  Nancy Drew, Donna Parker, Henry Huggins, Beezus, Ramona and the Hardy Boys also held my attention.  However when the librarian in the Marpole Public library introduced me to Anne of Green Gables, I learned what it was to have a kindred spirit and that living with imagination was a good thing.  My mother was delighted when I brought the first book home and waited for me to finish reading the book so she could reaquaint herself with Anne with an “e”.  In fact I read the series so quickly because my Mom was always in line to read the next book.  My mother did not have a lot of spare cash as a single mother, but she always belonged to the Book of the Month Club and frequented the public library.  The fact that she wanted to read my books filled with me with a huge sense of pride.  She’d make a pot of tea and we’d chat about the book, the characters, the importance of pretty clothes and that people actually die in books and in life.

When my husband was planning our bike trip to Prince Edward Island this summer, my one request was that we do ” The Anne thing”.  I bought the book to reread it during the journey.  And yes, I did take it for the photo op in the garden amidst all of the flowers that she so adored.  YES, I do realize that Anne is a fictional character.  Yet, what L.M. Montgomery was able to so aptly do was write about what she knew from losing her mother as a toddler and growing up in P.E.I. with stern grandparents and a doting but far away father.  Clearly she was able to take her experience and recreate it in the mind’s eye of a kid growing up in Vancouver and little girls growing up in Japan.  The walk down Lover’s Lane and through the Haunted Wood is just what I expected.  She was also able to create such a vivid character that could have been real and would be loved and remembered into adulthood.  When I woke up to the poplar’s rustling wildly in Mount Stewart at the Water’s Edge B&B, I knew that Matthew would be warning Anne of imminent rain and packed my Arteryx jacket for the day’s journey💧.   I can’t wait for the long running musical in Charlottetown!

“Norman, Speak!”

  Caroline Adderson welcomed student representatives from all of the elementary schools in the VSB to a celebration of literacy along with their librarians and principals or vice-principals.  “Norman Speaks” was the book selected by the Vancouver Elementary Principals Vice Principals Association (VEPVPA).   Each year the VEPVPA “Celebrating Literacy Committee ” selects a book.   The Association invites the author to share the story with students and then puts the autographed book into the one hundred VSB elementary school libraries in Vancouver.  “Norman Speak” was selected for the storytelling and the illustrations in the picture book, as well as the story itself.   Caroline Adderson fascinated both groups with the story of the dog who inspired the story, a real dog that really only understood Chinese.  The book explores the assumptions that young and old people make when someone does not speak the language.  Something wise to be talking about in a city like Vancouver, where so many people speak English as a second or third or fourth language.  Caroline was an amazing presenter – a prolific author with teaching experience!  She had us all engaged in grappling with the task of trying to speak another language.  She also shared a video clip with the illustrator, Qin Leng, discussing how she approached doing the illustrations.   The students were amazed to learn that the authors and illustrators don’t usually meet until after the drawings are done, if ever.

Ben reports that the highlight of the event was having books and pieces of paper signed by the author.   More than one students reported that the dog shaped chocolate was the best part.   The was truly a wonderful illustration of how books can help us to adopt another perspective and delight in the experience.


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Book Review: Nine Words Max By Dan Bar-el

Written by Dan Bar-el
Illustrated by David Huyck

Tundra Books 2014 

Dan Bar-el brings his strength as a storyteller to audiences of young children to his work as an author.  He works magic captivating young listeners.  Max, the main character of his story, is every bit as verbal as the author but less successful at captivating his audience.  Maximillian, is a young prince with many questions, the background knowledge to draw on and the tenacity to drive his brothers crazy.  A magic spell limits him to quick jolts of only 9 words at a time.  Sometimes less is not more and the book opens the discussion of the power of language.  David Huyck’s love of cartoons is evident in the illustrations of the book.  The illustrations provide as much information as the text.  Good fun  and lots of laughs for capable primary readers and intermediate students. IMG_0085

Book Review: A Brush full of Colour: The World of Ted Harrison

By Margriet Ruurs and Katherine Gibson

Pajama Press 2014

In the foreward of this gorgeous book, Ted Harrison urges his readers to keep on reading, writing and painting to make the world a happier and more creative place.  Katherine Gibson and Margriet Ruurs tell the story of Ted Harrison’s life and inspiration for his work.  Photographs from his family collections, recollections, drawings and painting  trace his life and work from childhood in England to his eventual move to teach in the Yukon.  He explains that it was the “free lines of nature” and northern lights and reflections that inspired him in a way that has become synonymous with the North.  To quote Ted Harrison, “Art must be part of every child’s education…Painting is the last great freedom.  You can paint what you like.”  This book is a powerful example of a biography, an art book and a celebration.

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Book Review: Taan’s Moons A Haida Moon Story

By Alison Gear
Felt Illustrations by Kiki van dee Heiden with the Children of Haida Gwaii

mckellar & martin Publishing Group Ltd. 2014

This book made me want to go back to the Haida Gwaii.  It is a beautiful book and a celebration of the children of the Haida Gwaii who helped to make it.  The felt work is unique and a fitting representation of the BC Northwest coast.  Alison Gear has lived on the Haida Gwaii since 1996 and tells one version of the Haida moon cycle.  Each page has text in English with titles in both Skidegate Haida and Old Masset Haida.  It is very cool that there is a full written translation and audio recording in the Skidegate Haida dialect upon request.  Initially the book looks like a book appropriate for early primary but the poetry of text makes it just as appropriate for use with older students.  I shared this book with Grade 3/4 students.  They loved the artwork in the illustrations and how you could “almost feel” the texture.  They also liked how the animals that they know quite a bit about, followed the cycle of the moon.  The students currently researching British Columbia and the Haida Gwaii were also thrilled that they were able to garner information to include in the books they are currently writing using BookCreator on the iPads.  Taan’s Moons is an amazing way to consider Aboriginal ways of knowing and understanding that are evolving into written text after being passed down through oral traditions for centuries.

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Book Review: If Kids Ruled the World by Div.11 Inspired by Bailey and Huyck and iPad minis

Written by Linda Bailey
Illustrated by David Huyck

Linda Bailey has created another fun book to engage young readers in reading and writing. Just like the Stanley series, it pulled my students into using their imagination.  Linda Bailey has played with rhyme.  We used the Draw and Tell app on the iPad minis to speculate about exactly what students would do if they ruled the world. Each child saved their pictures into the Draw and Tell App.  They had some great ideas:

If Kids Ruled the World…

It would rain $50.00 bills.

Everyone would get to go to the beach everyday.

It would REALLY rain cats and dogs.

Everyone could have All You Can Eat instant noodles for breakfast. lunch and dinner.

Crustaceans would be pets.

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Book Review: My Granny Loves HOCKEY

Written by Lori Webber
Illustrations by Eliska Liska

Simply Read Books 2014

Lori Weber is from Pointe-Claire, Quebec and a hockey enthusiast, as many little girls in Canada are.  In this charming book, the grand daughter is able to help her grandmother to live out her dream of playing hockey.  It’s a nice addition to a collection of Canadian classics that feature boys and their love of hockey.  I feel very fortunate to have had a friend and uncles who assumed I’d be playing when the fields froze over in Richmond. The celebrated Canadian Olympic hockey team is making this a greater possibility for Canadian girls.  Go Granny, go!

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