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Our History

Project of Heart was created by a teacher, Sylvia Smith, in Ottawa, Ontario to commemorate the lives of the thousands of Indigenous children who died as a result of the residential school experience.

In December 2011 Sylvia Smith received the Governor General’s Award for Project of Heart.

2011 was a banner year for Project of Heart in another important way. The Native Counselling Service of AlbertA (NCSA) partnered with the project, and through the resourcefulness and dedication of their Education Coordinator, the NCSA attracted funding to take Project of Heart from coast to coast to coast, which, incredibly, would see POH taken up by Ministries of Education and/or school boards in all provinces and territories in the space of less than a year. This new period of a national profile for the initiative was called “Project of Heart Phase 2” and was spearheaded by Charlene Bearhead, then of the NCSA and now the Education Lead with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

Seven years after the creation of POH — and hundred of thousands of decorated tiles later – Sylvia was made an Honourary Witness to the Truth and Reconcilation Commission at the TRC’s closing event in June of 2015.

Thousands of schools across Canada have now taught the Project of Heart module, and partner organizations include the British Columbia Teachers Federation, The University of Regina Faculty of Education, The Shingwauk Centre at Algoma University, and the Community Learning Centres of Québec. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba has the leadership role in delivering the Project of Heart curriculum across Canada, through their Education program.

Log on to www.projectofheart.ca to find out how to bring Project of Heart to your school or your community.

Project of Heart is an innovative educational tool kit designed to engage students in a deeper exploration of indigenous traditions in Canada and the history of Indian residential schools. It is a journey for understanding through the heart and spirit as well as facts and dates.

Indigenous concepts of education and literacy, such as Grandmother and Grandfather teachings and reading the environment, are fully incorporated into the curriculum. Elders from First Nation, Metis and Inuit communities become regular participants in classroom presentations and discussions. Students lead many of the project outcomes, demonstrating their learning through videos and multimedia presentations and decorating small wooden tiles. Each tile becomes a meaningful artifact, representing one of the thousands of young lives lost due to the effects of the Indian residential schools system.

A key objective of the program is to encourage “ownership” of this historic injustice by enacting gestures of reconciliation for the past and continued oppression of Aboriginal people in Canada. Project of Heart continues to be shared with elementary, secondary, and post-secondary schools in other regions of Canada. It was show-cased at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s first national event, held in Winnipeg in June, 2010.

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