POH in Lethbridge: bringing together students from Piikani Nation and Sunnyside Elementary

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The last school term before the summer break saw Lethbridge Grade 4 students from Sunnyside Elementary School take part in a cultural exchange to learn about residential schools and Aboriginal culture through storytelling, art and dance.

Project of Heart caught up with Napi’s Playground Elementary School –– from Piikani Nation in Brocket, AB) –– teacher Mark Anderson, this week to find out more about how he and his students engaged Sunnyside’s students and this is what he had to say:

“Sunnyside school is where I did my second student teaching practicum in 2008. When I proposed an exchange for this year with Ken Van Cleave’s students from Sunnyside, I took my Principal, Crystal Good Rider’s suggestion to model the visit after Project of Heart. He agreed – that it would make for a really good visit. I contacted Elders Rosaline Crow Shoe and Wallace Yellow Face of the Piikani Nation as both are Indian Residential School Survivors. On the day of the visit, I gave some opening remarks. I introduced the children to the issue with history and facts, then stories from the book, “Out of the Depths” by Isabelle Knockwood. I followed that up with stories of generational abuse that my wife and her sisters endured as a direct result of their parents’ abuse.”

Anderson is clear about the importance of teaching the students the truth about Canada’s history. He points out that educators don’t shy away from teaching about war and death – they teach about what happened to our Veterans and the horror of the Holocaust, so when it comes to his own young learners he says “I think they’re old enough to understand and listen and hear that it’s wrong to beat a child. They know that.”

After listening to the Elders, students from the two schools mingled with each other while colouring cards that were split between both schools when they finished so that they could both put up similar bulletin boards. Then the Northstone Drum Group and Napi’s Playground Elementary School’s dance troupe demonstrated the richness of their cultural traditions through performing for Sunnyside. For Elder Crow Shoe, the day “was about helping the next generation”.

Project of Heart would like to thank Elder Crow Shoe and teachers Mark Anderson and Ken Van Cleave for facilitating ‘reconciliation in action’.


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