Horizon School Division receives Premier’s award for Indigenous learning project

·3 min read

The Horizon School Division board has received the 2021 Premier’s Board of Education Award for the submission of the division’s First Nation Mîkiwahp (Tipi) Project, being piloted in the George Gordon First Nation.

Funded under the McDowell Foundation, a Saskatchewan Teachers Federation research grant, the premise of the project is to begin with Indigenous ways of knowing and develop culturally appropriate curricula and an instructional model to inform the division in the implementation of high-quality, responsive instruction for Indigenous students.

The culmination of the project will be the creation of an outdoor classroom, a Mîkiwahp structure, that will serve as a space for ongoing land-based learning, ceremony and celebrations.

Kevin Garinger, Horizon’s director of education, said they expect the outdoor classroom to start within the year in the “very near future” at George Gordon First Nation. For the class, he said that the division is working with local knowledge keeper George Gray Buffalo, who is tied directly to the project.

“We will provide this opportunity for the children there, we’ll be gathering lots of data, looking deeply at how it has an impact on our youth and that whole notion of who they are,” Garinger said.

“Our research is to engage students in the Tipi as the foundation for holistic Indigenous ways of knowing, improving engagement, learning and attention to concepts. It will be tied more to mathematics than anything, but even supporting them around cultural and personal construction of knowledge.”

Students are expected to experience growth using the medicine wheel. Utilized by generations of different Indigenous Nations, the wheel teaches healing through the physical, the mental, the emotional, and the spiritual.

Long-term, the model is planned to be adopted as the exemplar for schools across Horizon. Before that happens, Garinger said the board will be examining the pilot data tweaking the curricula as needed.

“Through the learnings we will be able to extend to all children which is very vital as well,” Garinger said. “Why wouldn’t children want to know about the medicine wheel, the four dimensions and experience growth and understanding in those areas? It’s good for all kids that way.”

Bryan McNabb Jr., Horizon’s superintendent of Indigenous education, said in a video released about the project, that by using traditional teachings they will help build identity and self-esteem among First Nation youth.

The award, for innovation and excellence in education, was presented on behalf of Premier Scott Moe during the Saskatchewan School Boards Association’s (SSBA’s) virtual annual general assembly on Nov. 16.

Dustin Duncan, Saskatchewan’s education minister, said that through projects like this, students can connect with culture through education.

“Everyone at George Gordon First Nation and Horizon School Division should be very pleased with this wonderful achievement,” Duncan said.

A video about the Mîkiwahp (Tipi) Project was posted during the day the award was announced, which can be found on the SSBA YouTube channel at: youtu.be/7VPPVx84Rgk.

Jessica R. Durling, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Humboldt Journal

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