By James Chamberlain, elementary teacher and vice-principal in Vancouver
These hearts were designed by our Grade 2 and 3 students to depict peaceful images for Aboriginal people, and juxtapose this with hurtful imagery from their residential school history and experiences. A number of picture books about the negative impacts of residential schools upon Aboriginal people were read to the students. We discussed the racist laws imposed by the Canadian government that led to forcing Aboriginal families to give up their children to Indian Agents or face jail time. Students were already familiar with laws that banned potlatches and required Aboriginal people to give up their traditional reserves.
We linked our learning about the history of residential schools with previous lessons about segregation of people of African descent in North America. We had been discussing issues of segregated schools, restaurants, buses, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Chinese Head Tax in prior lessons. As part of the Wounded Heart & Peaceful Heart Project, we discussed and recorded overt and covert forms of racism that were historically perpetuated against people of colour as well. Finally, through classroom discussion we linked overt and covert forms of racism, sexism, and homophobia together.
These teachings are part of our multi-year focus on Aboriginal Education across the district. This
project is just one example of a much larger focus within our school. One of our school goals is to teach students at all grade levels about the positive contributions of Aboriginal history, culture, and traditions to our society. We believe that all students benefit from learning about Aboriginal Education.
Partial funding for this project came from Promoting a Culture of Peace for Children Society of BC. Please visit wartoystopeaceart.org if you are interested in applying for a grant.