Category Archives: In the News

President’s Distinguished Graduate Student Award Recipient

Congratulations to Sylvia Smith, Founder of Project of Heart, who received the President’s Distinguished Graduate Student Award at the fall 2017 convocation. This award recognizes outstanding academic performance and is granted to a student whose graduating thesis, exhibition, or performance and the corresponding defense was deemed meritorious by the examining committee.

How does it feel to be finished your master’s Sylvia? (Read about the obstacles she faced)

“GREAT! In some ways, I can’t believe it’s actually finished. I’ve never really thought of myself as an academic and certainly, with ‘life’ intruding the way it tends to, I never thought I would finish the darned thing. I’m just so lucky to have had a wonderfully supportive spouse and thesis committee (Dr. Carol Schick actually came out of retirement to help out) because they certainly didn’t have to do what they did.”

What excites you about your thesis?

“What excites me so very much is that my findings have already been referenced to support work being done around reconciliation and the necessity of teaching *for* justice and more practically, *doing* it. ”

Sylvia’s master’s thesis is called: Teachers’ Perceptions of Project of Heart, An Indian Residential School Education Project

Abstract:

The purpose of this study was to gain insight into how settler teachers took up an arts and activist-based Indian Residential School Commemoration Project called Project of Heart. More specifically, it sought to assess whether or not the research participants were led to transformation, demonstrated through disrupting “common sense” (racist) behaviours of teachers and students as well as through their engagement in social justice work that Project of Heart espouses.

Since 2007, Ontario school boards have been required by Ministry policy to teach the “Aboriginal Perspective” in their high school courses, yet at the time of the study (2010), there were still very few resources available for educators to do so. There were even fewer resources available to teach about the Indian Residential School era. Project of Heart was created by an Ontario teacher and her students in 2007 in order to address this egregious situation.

The study was guided by grounded theory methods and the findings suggest that while Project of Heart did not achieve “transformation” in its participants as assessed through teachers’ lack of completion of the social justice requirement, teachers indicated that both students and teachers benefitted greatly because of the relevance of the learning.

Defended: April 2017

Thesis Committee:

Supervisor: Dr. Marc Spooner
External Examiner: Dr. Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and professor for the School of Social Work at McGill University
Thesis committee members: Dr. Ken Montgomery, University of Windsor, Dean, Faculty of Education and Dr. Carol Shick, former Canada Research Chair in Social Justice and Aboriginal Education

Read more about Sylvia and the Project of Heart here: http://www2.uregina.ca/education/news/disrupted-studies-a-teacher-researcher-success-story/

 

Project of Heart teaching residential school history

Jenna Tickell, University of Regina Project of Heart facilitator stands with program participant, Selma Marion, on Saturday, Jan. 14 at the University of Regina. PHOTO/ASHLEY ROBINSON –

Growing up across the river from the Cowessess Indian Residential School, Selma Marion was always jealous of the students there. The kids would always wear nice outfits, Marion thought. They would attend church together in a big group.

“I always thought they had it good. Little did I know,” she said.

Marion later worked at Service Canada and was involved in registering residential school survivors for financial compensation. The veil was lifted. Marion began to learn what really happened across the river — abuse, loss of language, neglect, removal from their families.

She found herself wanting to know more. It led her to sign up for Project of Heart.

Project of Heart is national program, now its second year being offered at the University of Regina, about the history of the residential school system in Canada.

“People learn together about the Indian residential school system. And they teach each other about that and then we commemorate the children and the people that went to those schools,” said Jenna Tickell, facilitator of Project of Hope.

The group meets biweekly for seven weeks on Saturdays in a Luther College classroom on the U of R campus. The program isn’t lecture-based; instead, participants complete their own research and then come back and teach their classmates what they’ve learned.

“I do have a presentation at the end of that where I teach them about the specifics that I’m sure they’ve already touched on,” Tickell said.

Project of Heart was founded by Sylvia Smith while she was completing her university master’s degree. The idea behind it is to use an artistic approach to commemorate the people and families who were, or still are, affected by the residential school system in Canada.

Tickell attended a guest lecture featuring Smith and heard about the program. Tickell herself wrote her undergraduate honours paper on the need for indigenous education to be introduced at an elementary school level.

“I just saw the value in (Project of Hope) and there’s so many people that I know, my own age, older than me, that never got the education. So I want to reach as broad as I can to try and engage those learners and break that awareness,” she said.

The program has each class learning about the history of a local residential school. Each participant then learns about a specific child who died while attending the school. The class also decides on an activism in which to participate throughout the course.

Tickell doesn’t give the students ideas of what to do. They come up with it themselves. Last year the class became involved in a push for the municipal heritage designation of the Regina Indian Industrial School cemetery. This year the group will once again learn about the Regina Indian Industrial School, though their specific activism has not been decided on yet.

The program is free and for all ages. For more information, contact JennaTickell@hotmail.ca