HPSD's Indigenous Education Team Wins Provincial Award

HPSD's Indigenous Education Team Wins Provincial Award
Posted on 06/15/2023
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High Prairie School Divison's Indigenous Education Coach (IEC) Team was the recipient of the Public School Boards' Association of Alberta (PSBAA) 's Promoting and Advancing One or More of the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in Relation to Education in Alberta Award. They were presented with the award at the PSBAA Special Recognition Awards night in Calgary on Saturday, May 27.
This award was created last year by the PSBAA to encourage further the pursuance of the ninety-four calls to action recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 2015. The IEC team was recognized for advancing the 63rd Call to Action, which states:
"We call upon the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, to maintain an annual commitment to Aboriginal education issues, including:
-Developing and implementing kindergarten to grade twelve curriculum and learning resources on Aboriginal peoples in Canadian history, and the history and legacy of residential schools,
-Sharing information and best practices on teaching curriculum related to residential schools and Aboriginal history,
-Building student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy, and mutual respect,
-Identifying teacher-training needs related to the above.

The IEC team plays a vital role in advancing reconciliation within our schools and communities. The Teaching Quality Standard (TQS) #5 focuses on achieving competency to develop and apply foundational knowledge about First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people for the benefit of all students. The model that has been created supports all staff in meeting this standard and instills in students a deep understanding of Canadian history, including Indigenous cultures, perspectives, treaties and land agreements, the legacy of residential schools, and the contributions of Indigenous culture in shaping our Canadian identity.

They have developed a wide-ranging collection of lesson plans on Indigenous teachings, ceremonies, and accurate historical events directly related to curricular outcomes. Land-based learning is an integral component of this educational programming. Relocating the classroom to the land allows for true connection with the earth, plants, animals, and one another. These teachings are always led by Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers and are an opportunity for students to receive the passing down of knowledge in a traditional way. Indigenous learners see themselves mirrored in the curriculum, with classroom content reflecting all subject areas in a respectful and authentic way.

This March, the High Prairie School Division was chosen to present its Indigenous education program as a success story at Alberta's Rural Education Symposium. Two of the team members spoke about the practices and approaches used in the program, how it has been created to support Indigenous knowledge systems, and how these ways of knowing and being create a richer learning experience for all students. There is not one day during the school year that an Elder is not present in at least one classroom or working with students on land-based education activities. The team's involvement in the Zone 1 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Committee, and work with local band schools, has significantly impacted understanding and promoting reconciliation efforts.

Notable accomplishments by this team are:
-The founding of a division-wide hand games tournament in collaboration with local Elder Herman Sutherland,
-A Divisional Cree Language Project facilitated by Dr. Kevin Lewis, a Plains Cree professor, researcher, and writer,
-The creation of a tipi from start to finish at Joussard School. The tipi was built by students, staff, and local Elders Ann and Allan Koski and is now located in the school atrium,
-A division-wide logo contest with the winning design being featured on HPSD's own orange shirts in honour of Orange Shirt Day,
-Inaugural divisional Round Dance held this March in collaboration with Julia Sander and Kienan Wilson from Joussard School.
-The use of the 7 Grandfather Teachings of Love, Respect, Bravery, Truth, Honesty, Humility, and Wisdom as a model for character education in several schools.

The building of student capacity is reflected in the founding of the Youth Council for Reconciliation (YCR), comprised of youth groups within each school. These student-led groups focus on moving reconciliation forward within their schools and communities. They lead cultural celebrations and events, attend division-wide conferences, and work to create real change.

The team facilitates ongoing professional development for staff and has provided one hour of PD each month to teachers during a regular PD day over the past five years. This focus on professional development is essential in ensuring that teachers feel confident and equipped to incorporate Indigenous teachings and history into their curriculum in ways that are meaningful and respectful.

This combined approach to incorporating Indigenous teachings and history into its curriculum is a model for other schools and educational institutions to follow. Students are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and empathy to become healthy individuals and transformative leaders in society. Congratulations to our entire Indigenous Education Team for being the recipient of this prestigious award.

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