AAW Year End Trip to Bkejwanong

Earlier in the week our grade 5/6 and 6 classes were fortunate to take a field trip to Bkejwanong.  It was a beautiful sunny day - perfect for archery, fishing, drumming, singing, and a delicious lunch as well!

It is a quick bus ride from A.A. Wright to Bkejwanong.  The students spent the ride talking about past fishing experiences, what they were looking forward to, and sorting through their tackle boxes comparing lures and hooks.  Once we crossed over the bridge and travelled down the main road it was so meaningful to hear and see students point out where their grandparents lived, where their cousins went to school, where they have played lacrosse or hockey in the past, where their siblings go to day care, and even where their parents work.  Hearing those connections and seeing the pride on their faces as they were able to point these things out to their peers was priceless.

Once we arrived at the Bkejwanong Youth Facility (BYF) we were met by Adrian and his two post-secondary summer students.  They welcomed us to the BYF, told us all about the activities and programs that are run there, and answered our questions.  Many students were excited to learn that they were old enough to take part in the activities offered there.  If you are interested in learning more about the Bkejwanong Youth Facility you can check out their website HERE.

After this we divided into two groups to start our morning activities - archery and fishing.  At archery Adrian taught us how to properly hold a bow, the best stance to be successful, and the importance of being aware of your surroundings.  For some it was their first time trying archery, while others were already familiar and comfortable with the skill.  Either way they were all engaged and excited to rotate between the 6 targets set out for us.

After an hour or so our group rotated so it was our turn to take on some fishing.  Again, we had some students who were experienced, while others were new to it.  The staff were so helpful in showing our kids how to cast and probably untangled more lines in that hour than they have in the rest of their lived combined.  For the students, it was a great opportunity to work on patience, calm, and appreciating the landscape around you.

At this point it was time for lunch.  We were fortunate enough to have locally catered fry bread tacos.  Based on the empty plates and full tummies I think its safe to say the kids all thought it was DELICIOUS.

After lunch we took part in some drumming and dancing with local community members, the Isaac family.  They shared with us some of their knowledge surrounding residential schools and the impact they had on Indigenous culture.  For example, Cedric explained to us how Pow Wows and drumming were made illegal as a means of suppressing culture.  It was important for the students to have this knowledge reinforced.

The students enjoyed checking out the drums and shakers and identifying which parts of the animals were used for which instruments.  Last but not least we took part in a round dance before we left.  All in all it was a fantastic day of culture, activity, learning, and sharing!  Thank you to everyone who helped make today such a meaningful and worthwhile experience for our students!

Wrapping up the Year at Bkejwanong

For our year end trip, Jen's class and my class travelled to Bkejwanong (Walpole Island). Up to this point, my kiddos have only experienced the flow of the water from lake to river and the reedy landscape of the First Nation through the beauty of Google Earth. 

"That sign says Boozhoo!" a six year old yelled out on the bus as we traveled over the bridge and onto the First Nation of Bkejwanong. Their eyes were sparkling as they experienced the Snye River in real life.

Enroute to our destination of High Banks park, we shared our observations of the ferry dock that travelled directly across the St. Clair River to the United States of America. The kids were in awe of the colourful climber equipment at Bkejwanong Kinomaagewgmig (Walpole Island Elementary School) and were pleasantly surprised to see a daycare and police station.  

After some exploration time at the outdoor fitness and play equipment at High Banks Park, we were joined by the Isaac family. Students were quick to form a circle around them on the grass under the clearest sky we've had in weeks. Their eyes were locked onto the shakers and drums made of horns, deer hide, and rattle snake as the Isaac family shared their make and sounds. And then magic began...

We spent the next 40 minutes matching the beat of our shakers to the rhythm of Mr. Isaac's drum. We sang along celebrating the land, women, and one another. We danced in unision. We embraced a culture we had been celebrating throughout the year. 

AAW Goes to the Lambton College Pow Wow

On April 4th the Grade 5/6 and 6 classes travelled to Lambton College in Sarnia for the annual Pow Wow.  This was an event that our classes were very excited to attend.  Some students had been to Pow Wows previously at Bkejwanong or Aamjiwanaang while others were looking forward to a new cultural experience.

The week before we left we reviewed a slideshow created by Gretchen with some background information on Pow Wows as well as Pow Wow etiquette.  It was important to me that our students knew how to behave and interact appropriately in order to be respectful of the dancers, drummers and cultural experience as a whole.

Our students had also become familiar with Pow Wow dances through dance and music classes earlier in the year.  If you're interested in introducing Pow Wow dancing to your classroom check out the Pow Wow Sweat video series on YouTube by clicking HERE.

When we arrived at Lambton College our students were so excited to head to the arena and check out the vendors, the drummers, the dancer's regalia, and of course the food, before the dancing started.  Once the Grand Entry began I was again thankful for Gretchen's slideshow as the students had acquired appropriate knowledge and understanding of the ceremony and proceedings that they were now a part of.

Over the course of the next hour or so many students took advantage of the opportunity to join in with the group dances while others chose to observe.  Either way, I was happy that our students had the opportunity to take part first hand in such a culturally rich experience that many would not have had otherwise.

If there is a local Pow Wow close to your school I would definitely recommend taking your class as it is a culturally rich experience that all students can benefit from and enjoy!

P.E. McGibbon off to the Pow Wow at Lambton College

With the news and anticipation of the 27th annual Lambton College Indigenous Pow Wow approaching, the team saw this as an opportunity to provide our students as well as ourselves with an authentic experience. Jen and I had familiarized our students with traditional Pow Wow dancing by engaging in Pow Wow Sweat (if you haven't checked out these YouTube videos by The Style Horse Collective yet, you're missing out!). 

Jen and I brought our grade 1's and 2's from P.E. McGibbon to the event and were overwhelmed by the knowledge that guided us into the new athletics centre where the PowWow dancing arena was formed. The most impressive aspect of the Pow Wow was the amount of knowledge its participants were able to seek out by walking around and speaking to Indigenous People to gain first hand knowledge on cultural practices such as beading, regalia, and symbols. 

Our students hurried to grab front row seats and immediately picked out dancers doing the fancy shawl and chicken dance. The most heartwarming part of the day was the inclusive environment established as attendees were invited to become participants. Every single one of my students jumped (literally) at the opportunity to join in the dancing arena. The rich cultural experience I gained alongside my students came from not only familiarizing ourselves with Ojibwe culture and dance but most importantly, taking that risk to try something new and foreign to us and coming together in that experience that we share and appreciate. 

Ojibwe Word of the Week: April

In preparation for some exciting events, this month we have decided to choose words that are related to PowWows and dancing. This month our schools will be attending the Lambton College PowWow. It will be an incredible opportunity for our students to engage in some indigenous cultural activities. They are very excited about watching and trying out some dancing! Which brings us to our second event, the Great Lakes Woodland Dance Troupe. During the month of May, both schools will be hosting the dance troupe and we look forward to their singing, dancing and storytelling!

Ojibwe Words of the Week: April

Ngamwin - song
Mnidoominesag - beads
Dewegan - drum
Niimi - He or she is dancing
Jiingtamog - PowWow 

Click here to access the Ojibwe Words of the Week PDF 

Do Better When You Know Better

At PE McGibbon we have video announcements which means there is a lot of media. The student announcement team uses video, images, audio recording, and music to share information. At the end of our announcements we always have the land acknowledgment followed by O Canada.

One day as I was listening to a student's voice read the land acknowledgment over an image of the Canadian Flag and I thought to myself, "This doesn't seem right." I wondered if there was a more appropriate and authentic way to share the land acknowledgement with our staff and students. When I sat and reflected on what the land acknowledgment really said, it made me think about Treaty 29. My school is on Treaty 29 land and it seemed like the only time we talked about this was during Treaties Week. I know we could do better.

I talked to Gretchen about the idea of making some land acknowledgment videos with images of Treaty 29 and Aamjiwnaang. The purpose would be to acknowledge the indigenous groups who lived in the Sarnia area before the treaty, the treaty itself and the current Aamjiwnaang community. She agreed it would be a good learning opportunity and I got to work making some new videos.

Below are some of the examples we created to share with our staff and students. We created these videos using Apple Clips.

A Morning at Bkejwanong

Chi-Miigwech to Minogiizhgad for sharing Ojibwe language with us related to our experience this morning.

What a privilege.
This morning, Jen, Ally & I were invited by Gretchen and Minogiizhgad to his home at Bkejwanong in hopes that jigaa ninaatigo waaboo (the sap is dripping). We were joined by Language Consultants and Ojibwe Language Teachers from the the Lambton Kent District School Board. We began with a walk through the ninaatigo kaan (maple tree bush) while Minogiizhgad shared stories of Nanabush (or Nanaboozhoo) and the his discovery of maple sap as another form of Mother Earth's medicine for her people.

We even had an opportunity to explore, feel, and choose a tree to tap ourselves.

What humbled me most is realizing what makes the Anishinaabe culture so beautiful is that in everything there is meaning. All practices and interactions are done so with intent and purpose. As Jen and I taste tested the maple sugar that was created after skagamezigeng (the process of boiling sap), Minogiizhgad looked at Jen and I with a smile and said, "those smiles on your faces, there is the medicine".

We ended our morning inside one of the most intricate structures I've experienced, the Bkejwanong Teaching Lodge. The physical work that went into the Lodge is evident in every log, branch, and hand-stripped piece of bark that brought to life a design that was studied and recreated by a piece of film discovered of a Potawatomi family building their own lodge in the 1930's. An Ojibwe Language teacher who took part in the building of the Bkejwanong Teaching Lodge shared that the experience gave the Bkejwanong men a sense of purpose and community that will forever connect them to one another. The Lodge is used for ceremonial purposes and has become a prominent setting for the people of Bkejwanong to gather, embrace, and share. 

Chi-Miigwech Minogiizhgad and Gretchen as well as our fellow learners this morning for an experience the deepened my understanding, admiration, and gratitude. 

Visit from Joanne Robertson

On February 5th the junior students at A.A. Wright were so lucky to have Joanne Robertson visit us.  Joanne is AnishinaabeKwe and a member of Atikameksheng Anishnawbek.  She is the founder of the Empty Glass for Water campaign to bring attention to the drinking water crisis in Indigenous communities across Canada.  Joanne is also the author of the book "The Water Walker".

This is a fantastic true story about an Ojibwe grandmother (nokomis) named Josephine Mandamin and her love for water (nibi) and the need to protect it for our future generations.

Joanne spoke with us about the importance of fresh water and the water walks that she has been on in an effort to raise awareness of this cause.  Our students were so taken by the distance that Joanne, Josephine, and the other Water Walkers walked in an effort to spread their message.  They were also excited to learn that the Water Walker's visited Walpole Island and prayed for the St. Clair River a couple of years ago.  To learn more about the Mother Earth Water Walk you can visit their website HERE.

Not only was Joanne a fantastic presenter with a great message for us she also was gracious enough to help us out with our Words of the Week videos for February.  Our team decided to pull words from Joanne's book to focus on.  To access these videos and PDF word wall cards click HERE.

Also, as we know water is a theme that weaves its way through each grade of the Ontario science curriculum.  To learn more about how to incorporate this learning into your lessons, as well as watch a fantastic book review of "The Water Walker", please check out Gretchen's blog post HERE.

Family Event: Shaker Making at A.A. Wright

As a result of the Calls to Action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission we have been working on inviting community members from Bkejwanong (the First Nation closest to A.A. Wright) into our school to share Indigenous ways of knowing and learning in meaningful ways.  Recently, we invited Cecil Isaac to come in after school and lead some of our families in shaker making.

We started our event by sharing a meal together.  This is always a great opportunity to share, chat, and build a sense of community with our families.  After we had finished eating Cecil began to walk us through the process of creating our deer hide shakers.

The first thing that we needed to do some soak the hide overnight the night before so that it would be pliable and ready to sew on shaker making night.  We cut the hide out in advance to save the students and their families the hassle on the night of.  We used a leather punch to create holes around the edges and then our students and their adults used sinew to sew the two pieces of hide together.  Once this was done the kids packed their shaker with sand to give it shape as the hide dried.  The last step for the evening was to put the dowel handle in and wrap sinew around it to keep it in place while the hide dries.

It was so fantastic to see some of our families coming together, working on a common task, and creating a traditional Anishnaabe instrument.  We are all looking forward to night two where we will come back to together remove the sand, and fill our shakers with beans.  After we fill our bellies with another shared meal first, of course.

Check out the pictures below from shaker making night 1!

Ojibwe Word of the Week: March

This month we continued to focus on words from Joanne Robertson's book "The Water Walker".  Some of the words in the book are spelled differently in our local communities. We talked to area Ojibwe speakers and decided to use local spelling.

Ojibwe Words of the Week: March

Chi-Miigwech - Thank You Very Much, Big Thank You
Migizi - Eagle
Gimaa - Leader or Chief

Click here to access the Ojibwe Words of the Week PDF

Ojibwe Word of the Week: February

As you may have noticed, we did not have any new Ojibwe words for the month of January. Instead, we chose to make January a review month. Each day on our announcements we reviewed a different word. This gave staff and students a great chance to refresh their memories on how many Ojibwe words we have learned so far this year!

When we thought about what words to do in February, Gretchen suggested words from Joanne Robertson's book "The Water Walker". It is an amazing true story about an Ojibwe Grandmother that walks to raise awareness for the need to protect our water for future generations. Gretchen has held several workshops within our school board on how to use "The Water Walker" to make curriculum connections in the classroom. We made sure to share with our respective staffs, that copies of the book are available in our schools so that everyone can learn together.

In other VERY EXCITING NEWS, Joanne Robertson agreed to help us out with Ojibwe Word of the Week. She made two of the videos this month. We cannot thank her enough! Chi-Miigwech Joanne!

Below is the video we played to introduce our words of the week from "The Water Walker". We wanted to share our focus and we needed to address the word "water". Last year, our students learned that the Ojibwe word for water is biish. In the book, water is nibi. Watch the video to find out how we explained this to our staff and students.

Ojibwe Words of the Week: February

Nibi - water
Nokomis - Grandmother
Nokomis Giizis - Grandmother moon
Jiimaan - Boat or canoe

Click here to access the Ojibwe Words of the Week PDF