It was after watching CBC’s “8th Fire” this past spring that Laura Leichnitz decided to bring Project of Heart into her classroom at Parkway Public in Brampton, Ontario. Soon her students were honouring the Aboriginal children who did not survive their experiences at Joussard and Whitefish Lake Indian Residential Schools in Alberta. After learning about the Indian Residential Schools and decorating the tiles, Elder Gary Sault visited the school for a day and performed the smudge ceremony. After the ceremony, the Parkway students went into high gear, exercising their citizenship and making their voices heard.Here’s what Laura’s students had to say about putting their learning into action for justice:
“Through our participation in Project of Heart we, the Grade Six students at Parkway Public School, became inspired to make a difference. We decorated wooden tiles, each representing a child who died at two residential schools in Alberta. In working on these 212 tiles, we wondered how else we can help? And so the idea of CORE (Creating Opportunities and Restoring Equality) began. CORE is a student-based social justice project. Our aim is to help First Nations students by improving living conditions and access to education on Ontario Reserves. We plan to be the start of restoring equality.
After learning about the Indian Act, Indian Residential Schools, the 60s Scoop, and doing our own research about the state of reserves in Ontario today our class brainstormed ways we could create social change and make a difference for First Nations peoples living in Canada. We wanted our ideas to be practical and attainable, but also to reach as wide and broad an audience as possible. After watching the KONY 2012 video we decided to create our own action kits. They include posters, stickers, bracelets, flyers and a reusable cloth bag was sewn and printed to store all the giveaways that would help make peple aware of the need for a change. The first action we wanted to take was to donate our unneeded resources. The Grade 6 year will be moving to the local middle school next fall. We wrote a letter to our Superintendent, Ms. Mason, explaining our project and describing our idea, and asked her if we could donate all of our Grade Six resources to a reserve school in need. She came to visit us and hear about our project. Ms. Mason completely supported our idea, and we donated our resources to four Reserve Schools this June.
We have also made action kits for the grade 5 and 6 students in our neighbouring elementary schools and presented our project and distributed the action kits on June 13th. Also, on June 13th, Helen Wilson, Sir Wilfred Laurier and Parkway took part in “Our Dreams Matter Too”, a walk for culturally based equity for First Nations children. The walk culminated with all 300 students mailing letters they wrote to the government to help support First Nations children.”
Leichnitz’s students were invited to present their project to Principals in their family of schools at a Superintendents’ meeting in June. (note: the video component of the CORE project is at the top of the this story) They also presented at the June Board meeting of the Peel District School Board. The students and their work were also featured on CP24 as well as on Rogers Television. Leichnitz states, “All the media attention played an important part in spreading awareness. None of this would have been possible without the learning that came from participating in Project of Heart. It has been a truly rewarding experience for all of us!”
Many many thanks to Laura and the students of Parkway Public School!