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Issue #20
July, 2011

Learning Strategies for Aboriginal Students: Opportunities to make learning meaningful

Source: Alberta Education

Summary: This chapter will help teachers to:

  • use effective instructional strategies that will support the learning needs and strengths of Aboriginal students
  • gain a better understanding of the unique worldviews of Aboriginal students.

The teacher’s relationship with the student is at the heart of Aboriginal approaches to education. Traditionally, teachers knew each student as an individual, with unique gifts and needs. In this environment, they tailored the learning process to the student’s needs as a matter of course.

Tailoring the learning process for Aboriginal students helps to engage their interest and allows them to succeed. To do this, teachers need to:

  • build relationships with individual students
  • gather information through conversations with students, parents and other teachers
  • observe students in a variety of situations.

In Aboriginal approaches to learning, simply knowing information is not enough. Students are supported, encouraged and challenged to own their learning, to bring it into context, to make it part of their experience and to reflect on what they have learned. The strategies explored in this chapter support this kind of learning experience.

Shielded Minds – A video

Source: Canadian Grass Roots Exchange
Focus: Secondary students

Summary: The Canadian Roots Exchange is an innovative youth inspired program that addresses the need for reconciliation within Canada.

A group of 20 Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students set out on a 8 day road trip across the Canadian Shield in their attempt to find out more about Aboriginal peoples and communities in Canada. This video documents their journey and provided the opportunity for discussion among students of the issues and stereotypes that have prevented reconciliation from occurring.

Indigenous Early Childhood Education

Source: Australian Government: Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations

Summary: Indigenous children and their families have a unique culture and the Australian Government is committed to improving access to integrated, inclusive services that are relevant to their lives. We know there are significant differences in life experiences and outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children. Closing these gaps is a priority for the Australian Government.

International research indicates that investment in early childhood, particularly for disadvantaged children, can yield substantial benefits in the longer term through reduced expenditure on welfare, law and order and health, and increased participation and productivity.

However, information surrounding the use of early childhood services tells us that Indigenous children and their families are less likely to access them because of service unavailability in some locations, service delivery fragmentation or an absence of cultural awareness and competence in services they could otherwise access.

This web site contains information about key initiatives and services for Indigenous children and their families.

Walking with the Earth – Pimohtiwin: Lessons to Support Science 10

Source: These lessons were developed by the following team of teachers, Elders, and cultural advisors: Yvonne Chamakese, David Hlady, Anna-Leah King, Duane Johnson, Marcia Klein, Lana Lorensen, Sally Milne, Joseph Naytowhow, Lamarr Oksasikewiyin, Stuart Prosper, Ron Ray, Ted View, John Wright, and Laura Wasacase. Support was provided by Dean Elliott from the Ministry of Education, and Margaret Pillay from the Saskatchewan Professional Development Unit.

Focus: Grade 10 Sciencce

Summary: These lessons involve a walk in nature that could take place in any community, or could also be a field trip to an environmental centre. Hints for using the outdoor classroom are included. This activity includes a pre-site lesson, an on-site lesson, and a post-site lesson.

The material here is based on experiences at Brightwater Science and Environment Centre with Saskatoon Public Schools, an outdoor education centre located near Saskatoon. In these visits, students are accompanied by an Elder or a traditional knowledge keeper.

These lessons incorporate objectives from the unit entitled Life Science: Sustainability of Ecosystems (SE) in the Saskatchewan Science 10 Curriculum Guide.

Foundational Objectives:

  • Explore cultural perspectives on sustainability.
  • Examine biodiversity within local ecosystems.

Family, community, and Aboriginal language among young First Nations children living off reserve in Canada

Source: Statistics Canada
Focus: Teachers

Summary: Aboriginal languages are central to many First Nations people’s identity. The 2006 Census recorded more than 60 different Aboriginal languages spoken by First Nations people in Canada, grouped into distinct language families (Algonquian, Athapascan, Siouan, Salish, Tsimshian, Wakashan, Iroquoian, Haida, Kutenai and Tlingit). Some Algonquian languages, such as Cree and Ojibway, are considered to have better long-term viability than other languages spoken by First Nations people because of their relatively larger base of speakers. However, even these more viable languages have experienced a decline in their use as the primary home language over the past two decades.

According to the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, the passing down of Aboriginal languages across the generations was disrupted by residential schools in Canada, where the use of Aboriginal languages was prohibited. The Royal Commission also noted that the revitalization of Aboriginal languages in Canada is a key component for building both healthy individuals and healthy communities.

Given the state of Canada’s Aboriginal languages, information about Aboriginal language knowledge and the factors that are associated with language development and retention among today’s First Nations children is relevant and important for those working to preserve, revitalize and promote Aboriginal languages.

Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres (OFIFC)

Summary: The Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres (OFIFC) is a provincial Aboriginal organization representing the collective interests of twenty-nine member Friendship Centres located in towns and cities throughout the province. The OFIFC administers a number of programs which are delivered by local Friendship Centres in areas such as health, justice, family support, and employment and training. Friendship Centres also design and deliver local initiatives in areas such as education, economic development, children and youth initiatives, and cultural awareness. The Vision of the Aboriginal Friendship Centre Movement is “to improve the quality of life for Aboriginal people living in an urban environment by supporting self-determined activities which encourage equal access to and participation in Canadian Society and which respects Aboriginal cultural distinctiveness.”

Rabbit and Bear Paws

Focus: Grades 1-4

Summary:Adventures of Rabbit and Bear Paws is for the young and the young at heart. This series is set in 1750’s colonized North America and features the comical adventures of two brothers, Rabbit and Bear Paws. Using Traditional Native Teachings and humour, the stories are based on THE SEVEN FIRES PROPHECIES and THE SEVEN GRANDFATHERS.

The characters are mischievous and the audience learns enjoyable life lessons from their numerous pranks and mistakes while also appreciating the unity of the Native communities and how they related to one another peacefully.

The characters will travel to different parts of the country, from coast to coast in new humorous adventures. In those adventures students will learn about the different cultures and the gifts that they contributed to modern society.

All the characters are based on Traditional Teachings. Rabbit is based on the ideas from THE SEVEN FIRES PROPHECIES. He is to be the little boy who helps to guide to the path the ancestors have made. While Bear Paws is based on stories that describe Naniboozhoo and the many adventures that were created around this person.

The Seven Grandfathers is used to help create all age stories that reflect a positive message that is needed for all the people of the medicine wheel. Since the main characters were brothers, the adventures center around social experiences and everyday life events that would happen in the 18th century that are as important today as they were yesterday.

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