“Beyond simple knowledge” – Manitoba professor lauds emotionally impactful learning

Project of Heart would like to acknowledge the work of the students in the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Manitoba for their Project of Heart learning experiences.

The students were taking Dr. Tracey Bone’s Feminist Perspectives in Social Work Practice and Social Welfare course, when they were introduced to Project of Heart through participating in a field trip to the National Center for Truth and Reconciliation in 2017. Since then, students in subsequent years have been doing adapted versions of Project of Heart in their course work. They attend a presentation on residential schools by one of the Center’s educators, then share their experiences of their learning with the first gesture of reconciliation. Decorating the small wooden tile, done in remembrance of a child who died as a result of attending the *school*, celebrating the resilience of the survivors, and explaining its significance to their peers is just one aspect of the learning/action they do.

Dr. Bone ensures that the student work is seen by both students and staff at the University of Manitoba through displays of the framed tiles on International Women’s Day (coming up on March 8th). As Bone states, “The exercise has been emotionally impactful for the students in my various courses as it moves the painful reality of Residential Schools beyond simple knowledge to application of learning.”

Miigwetch to the students and Dr. Bone for their investigating the horrific truths of Canada’s past and learning about the direct implications of that past to the present day. The forced separation of Indigenous children from their homes and communities was designed to eradicate the identity of thousands of children. These social work students are learning the tough work of supporting radical change in child welfare systems so that First Nations children can grow up in culturally supportive communities with loving family members to ensure their well-being. Keep up the good work!

World-Changing Kids and Project of Heart – a natural collaboration

Image source: WorldChangingKids.ca
A new and exciting partnership has been struck, and Project of Heart couldn’t be happier!

World-Changing Kids is teacher-activist Lindsay Barr’s social enterprise dedicated to leadership development, community building and social justice.

With her team of Indigenous Youth leading the way, World-Changing Kids is facilitating Project of Heart in communities where children, youth, and their families wish to learn about the history of the Residential Schools. Students are taking action to address ongoing injustices as they learn from Inuit and First Nation youth leaders in Project of Heart workshops.

Lindsay was recently on Daytime Ottawa to talk about these workshops – you can watch the clip here: https://youtu.be/4GCJ6Gi1d74

Read more about this initiative here: https://worldchangingkids.ca/archives/7775

Welcome Lindsay and World-Changing Kids!

Project of Heart Makes Impact at Grassroots Community Events

First Event: Peterborough Public Library  (June 4, 2022)

Peterborough Library 2022

The Peterborough Public Library invited the community to commemorate Indigenous History Month on Saturday, June 4 for Project of Heart: An Exploration of the Legacy of Residential Schools. This inter-generational Truth and Reconciliation activity was open to adults and families with children ages 10+ and ran from 10:30 am to 12:00 noon.

In this interactive program, community members learned about the history and legacy of residential schools from Project of Heart facilitator, Nancy Hamer Strahl, and Residential School Survivor, Mary Kelly. Participants commemorated the lives of children and families affected by Residential Schools by creating two small art tiles– one to keep and one to add to the community art project at the library as starting points for continued discussion and learning.


Second Event: Ajax Public Library  (September 30, 2022)

Ajax Library 2022

Ajax Public Library honoured the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, where we remember the lost children and Survivors of residential schools, their families, and communities. In this interactive program, participants learned about the history and legacy of residential schools from Project of Heart facilitator, Nancy Hamer Strahl, and Residential School Survivor, Mary Kelly. Participants created two small art tiles to commemorate the lives of children and families affected by Residential Schools – one to keep and one to add to the community reconciliation project as starting points for continued discussion and learning.

Project of Heart is an initiative that calls all Canadians to action, through social justice endeavors, to change our present and future history collectively. The Library encourages their community to learn more about Indigenous history and heritage. The continued tradition of oral histories through storytelling will ensure that Indigenous peoples’ truths are not erased and historical accuracy is preserved.


Third Event: Annual Metis Heritage Celebration (June 25, 2022)

Metis Heritage 2022

Annual Metis Heritage Celebration participated in Project of Heart in the 13th Annual Metis Heritage Celebration on June 25 at the Children’s Arena in Oshawa. This free family event celebrated Metis culture with Indigenous vendors and food, storytelling, cultural workshops, children’s activities, arts and crafts and musical performances by fiddlers, singers, drummers, and jiggers.

The workshop was facilitated by Kathy Morgan who told the story of her grandmother who was a student at the Qu’Appelle Indian Residential School (LeBret) for 3 years. Nancy Hamer Strahl helped the participants create a commemorative pin to honour Metis Residential School survivors and their families. The story of the Metis children in Residential schools is often forgotten. It was an opportunity for the Oshawa and Durham Region Metis council to offer its members an opportunity to learn more about their history and heritage.


Project of Heart is thrilled to announce a New Tile Source From Local Wood Recycling Business


It’s been a long time coming, but Project of Heart has finally found a local, business that can can source tiles that are not only ‘made in Canada’, but come from recycled wooden materials when possible.

Junction Gore Laser (to see where they got their name, click here: https://www.junctiongorelaser.com/our-story), situated in the heart unceded Algonquin territory in Ottawa, has partnered with Project of Heart to produce tiles for learners who desire to use art to express their solidarity with the families and Nations who lost loved ones as a result of the Residential Schools.

You can now go to Junction Gore’s Project of Heart page,  and to view the product page, click here. 

 For 15 years Project of Heart purchased milled tiles from the United States, but now we finally have a choice. And imagine, no more paying duty to purchase wood that in all likelihood, comes from Canada in the first place! We have long believed that we need to *do right* by the environment, so here’s our first step taken, in addressing a sustainability concern that has plagued us for a while.

We are grateful to Heather and Bill for partnering with us, and we look forward to getting feedback from the teachers and facilitators that will be using these products.

Canada’s National Cemetery exhibits 57,000 Project of Heart tiles as part of National Day of Truth and Reconciliation

Assembly of Seven Generations volunteers setting up tiles labyrinth at Beechwood Cemetery – photo A7G

The inaugural National Day of Truth and Reconciliation (NDTR) – was a landmark day in the nation’s capital. For the first time ever, Canada’s National Cemetery – historical Beechwood Cemetery in the forested east end of Ottawa – held a day of remembrance for the young victims of our country’s notorious Indian Residential School (IRS) era – the many thousands who were taken from their families and never seen again.

In partnership with long-time reconciliation resource Project of Heart and The Caring Society, on September 30 the cemetery hosted 1300 guests  in a day-long program of events to mark the NDTR. Also honoured as Orange Shirt Day, the opportunity to participate in meaningful remembrance and reflection was taken up by hundreds of educators and their students.

The day’s events included the launch of the 57,000 tile exhibit, created by learners across Canada – each tile representing the life of a child who died in an IRS.

Another highlight for many was a visit to the final resting place of Dr. Peter Bryce, the famous “good doctor” who, a hundred years ago, tried to blow the whistle on the horrific conditions in the schools, where children were starved, mistreated, and ultimately neglected to the point of death. Bryce’s dire warnings were ignored by the government of the day, most notably by the senior bureaucrat in charge of the deadly IRS administration, the notorious Duncan Campbell Scott, who promised that the schools would “kill the Indian in the child”. Scott’s grave, along with that of IRS proponent Nicholas Flood Davin, is included with Dr. Byrce’s in Beechwood’s “Reconciliation Walk”, where historically accurate gravesite plaques now tell the real story of historical personages interred in the cemetery.

“From Project of Heart’s point of view this day was a day to be cherished”, said Sylvia Smith, creator of the teaching resource that has been taught in every Canadian province and territory. “We had POH alumni from across Ontario and Quebec –  teachers and students alike – come to Beechwood to see the tiles they had created join with the 57,000 others to be displayed as an entire collection for the first time ever – it was incredibly moving. And it was a wonderful opportunity for many of the alumni to meet each other at last, instead of just seeing each other’s name on an email chain all these years.”

Adding to its symbolism, the display of tiles was installed by young members of the Assembly of Seven Generations, an organization dedicated to empowering Indigenous youth.

The day’s events were well covered by various news media outlets – links to a some of the coverage are below.








Brock concurrent education students given perfect opportunity to become “agents of reconciliation”

image credit Emily Hoch

When I began learning, conversing, looking, reflecting, and listening to and about Indigenous lives outside of the school context, I was able to connect the historical and contemporary facts with raw trauma and growth and healing. These are the moments that connect factual information with real people and real lives… I have learned through Project of Heart, I can be an agent for reconciliation by standing with Indigenous people.

Through listening, learning, growing, and opening my mind and sharing my experience and knowledge with my  peers, I continually move towards a greater understanding of the truth, and towards reconciling relationships based on this truth and recognition. These are learnings that extend far beyond the four walls of the classroom.

So says concurrent education student Emily Hoch in her reflections about a new initiative at Brock University, embedded into Professor Bobby (Stanley) Henry’s “Pedagogies of Indigenous Arts” teacher ed course.

Professor Henry incorporates Project of Heart to help concurrent education students bridge the gap between taking on new understandings and actually becoming “agents of reconciliation” in their own classrooms. With Professor Henry’s permission, the course description and learning expectations are the latest addition to POH’s Teaching Resource section and are ready to be adapted into teacher ed courses across a range of disciplines.

Professor Henry is no stranger to the discussion around the legacy of Indian Residential Schools ; here he is in an interview with CP24 News, talking about the devastating discovery of mass graves this past summer.

Orange Shirt Day at Canada’s national cemetery to host Project of Heart tiles exhibit

Dr. Peter Bryce grave site at Beechwood Cemetery


In a milestone event for Project of Heart, Ottawa’s Beechwood Cemetery has partnered with the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and POH to host an exhibit featuring the 57,000 tiles created by students from across Canada over the 14 years the Project has been teaching. Thousands of schools, classrooms, and workplaces have contributed to the collection.

The official launch of the exhibition is on the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, September 30, and all POH participants, past and present, are invited to be present at the unveiling of the tiles. Complete details of the event can be found in this news release from the Caring Society. It is part of a day-long program of events marking Orange Shirt Day at the cemetery and registration is open to all.

Beechwood Cemetery, known as Canada’s National Cemetery, is the final resting place for renowned leaders and contributors to the national life of Canada. It’s relationship with reconciliation and remembering is well-established, and while visiting the site you can also experience the Reconciliation Walk, which culminates at the graveside of Dr. Peter Bryce, the physician and health inspector who blew the whistle on the horrors of the Residential Schools almost a hundred years ago, and whose warnings were  tragically ignored by Canada.





Remembering the children: Virtual Heart Garden is classroom-ready!

Made with Padlet


A longtime Project of Heart collaborator has shared some very useful and timely news with us today. Here’s Lisa Howell, an educator located on unceded, unsurrendered, ancestral lands of the Algonquin people in Ottawa:

For virtual students, teachers, staff, and administrators, I have created a “virtual heart garden”. You are invited to share words of solidarity, feelings, and commitments to reconciliation. There are options to upload drawings as well. I explain all of this on the short (less than 5 mins!) video tutorial below.

Link to Virtual Heart garden: https://padlet.com/lhowe054/heartgarden

Here is a link with a short video tutorial I made for using the padlet: https://youtu.be/aTOSF-dX1oc

To add your contributions to the padlet, click on the padlet link. Share this link with your students. Once you are in the Virtual Heart garden, you will see many messages. To add yours, click on the plus sign in the bottom right corner. A “sticky note” will pop up. At the top of the sticky note, you are invited to add your name, your treaty/territory and your school and grade. Below, write a message to honour the 215 children and to make a commitment to the work ahead. At the bottom of the sticky note, there are options to add photographs or drawings. Padlet saves automatically. Once you are finished writing, click anywhere on the padlet. Now, you can go back to your post if you want to edit or change the background colour. Just hover over the top right-hand corner of your sticky note. You will see options to edit come up. Important reminders: please instruct your students to only write on their sticky note. They are not to modify/change anyone else’s. Also, as this is a public memorialisation, please review your students’ messages to ensure that they are honourable, with correct spelling and terminology.

This is a public call to action for change in this country: to value and honour the lives of Indigenous children, their families and communities, while also expressing our collective grief and honoring of the children lost and the families left behind.

Thank you Lisa Howell for this amazing resource!

Remembering the 215 children who died at the Kamloops IRS

Kamloops Indian Residential School – photo credit APTN

Canadians from coast-to-coast have been shocked at the news coming from Kamloops this past week. The unmarked graves of 215 children have been discovered at the site of the Kamloops IRS, validating the memories of survivors and confirming the oral history they have passed down to their children and grandchildren and demonstrating once again that far from being “isolated cases”, the cruel mistreatment of child captives was too often the norm in Canada’s IRS era, rather than the exception.

In recent years, the Kamloops IRS and has been the focus of meaningful historical teaching both in BC and across Canada, and resources have been created that give educators the tools to address this incredibly disturbing chapter of Canada’s colonial history.

  • The BCTF and BC’s Project of Heart – ebook – this amazing resource tells the hidden stories behind BC’s residential schools, and gives learners practical ways to include their new knowledge in meaningful gestures or reconcilation.
  • Hidden history – links and resources prepared by the BCTF, including videos, presentations, online resourcesm and teacher’s kits.

To find out how your classroom or learning group can honour the memory of the children who died at the Kamloops IRS and at residential schools across Canada, Project of Heart has prepared a 6-step learning module that has been used by educators in thousands of classrooms from coast to coast. And to see how educators in your province or school board have worked with Project of Heart, there are links to provincial Project of Heart sites at the top of this page.

Sherwood Park turns vision into reality

Big Project of Heart thanks go out to Courtney Richard, music teacher at Westboro Elementary School in Sherwood Park, Alberta, for this excellent report!

Our journey with Project of Heart has left us feeling excited, grateful, wondering…what is the word to describe a project like this? It is a project of truth. It is a project of reconciliation. We have learned, we have grown, we have been inspired; we took our time to ensure that we put our very best effort into a project that meant so much.

It started with a full day teacher professional development session with Charlene Bearhead. I, the music teacher for Westboro Elementary, attended this meeting to learn about incorporating more Indigenous teachings and ways of knowing into our classrooms. Charlene showed a video of a song that students at Pierre Elliott Trudeau Elementary had created with N’we Jinan artists called “Important to Us.” She also shared Project of Heart. It was the first time I had heard of this project and I knew that I had been called to action and that we, as a school body, needed to do something.

The following year we began intentionally working with our students to teach about residential schools. What were they? Why did they exist? How were Indigenous peoples affected? How has our Canadian society been impacted as a result of these schools? We, both staff and parents, learned alongside the children. Our students saw the injustices that had occurred, but also saw that one step in moving forward is for all of us to come together to stand as one. And so began our Project of Heart. Not through tiles, or through video, but through song.

We began our process brainstorming with Elder Wilson Bearhead what message we wanted for our song. It was our students’ talent, hard work, and creativity that took our vision and turned it into reality. Our song speaks of the past, the present, and the future. It encourages all cultures to come together to “Stand As One.” I am so proud of what our students were able to achieve. We hope that it inspires others to recognize no matter what age they are, we all have a voice and we all can make a difference in our country’s road to reconciliation. Our song and accompanying music video can be seen above this post.

It took a full school year to complete steps 1-3 of Project of Heart, but we made sure the following school year that we would fulfill all components of this project. It is true that we must apply what we have learned. Our project was a learning journey in and of itself, but what we do with this project extends the learning and takes it to a higher level. We listened to Rev. Mary Battaja’s survivor story (http://wherearethechildren.ca/en/stories/#story_2) and are grateful to Where Are The Children for filming so many stories that we can learn from. We chose to use the project we created as our social justice action. How can we continue to share our message? How can we take action by sharing our song through many different avenues so the message does not become lost or forgotten? We: posted it to our school website, shared on our district website, shared with friends and family, invited media to attend its release, shared with other teachers across the province, and promoted its use at conferences. Our job has not ended and in the years to come we hope to continue to work towards sharing our message of strength in unity. In doing so, it is our hope that it may spark a few others to do the same. Maybe one day we will all be able to look back at our past and see that we all did come together to Stand. As. One.