Delta School District at FNSEC

January 26, 2015

The Delta School District is situated on the traditional territory of the Tsawwassen, Musqueam and other Coast Salish First Nations. Ultimately, a collaborative working partnership with our local Coast Salish communities is what the Delta School District hopes to achieve.  A partnership that recognizes the value of both Indigenous and Western ways of knowing and being, is one that will go further in helping all students realize their potential.

This growing partnership was illustrated when the Tsawwassen First Nation and the Delta School District co-presented for the first time at the annual First Nation Education Steering Committee (FNESC) conference in December. The theme of this Aboriginal education conference was “Transforming Education”. Together, TFN and SD37 produced a primary level oral language development resource that incorporates West Coast Aboriginal perspectives as well as words from the Hulqu’min’un language, the Coast Salish language of the territory.

This resource, aptly named Sqwiqw’l Centres (Sqwiqw’l means “speaker” in Hulqu’min’un), was modeled after the oral language program, Talking Tables, and incorporated songs, rhymes, and stories from the Aboriginal PALS (Parents as Literacy Supports) program. By amalgamating ideas from each of these programs, TFN and the school district are feeling very proud of this early success.  Both the process and end result of this collaborative project have provided great enthusiasm in moving forward as working partners.

The workshop session opened with a welcome, given by Chrystalynn Gurniak in Hul’q’umi’num’ on behalf of TFN. We then explained the process that we worked through to weave Aboriginal perspectives into the Non-Indigenous program, Talking Tables, by indigenizing the program language and methodology.  We encouraged the participants to generate questions around incorporating Aboriginal perspectives into already existing classroom programs, explore the resources and engage in table discussions.  The highlight for us was when people began to have “Ah ha!” moments and recognized that they could start to do this in their classrooms too.

The oral language activities that we have developed are based on the natural environment (Northwest Coast animals, Northwest Coast plants, Mother Earth) and use poetry; vocabulary; stories; picture cards; and Raven, the trickster's theme bag that we have put together. This collaborative project was well received by workshop participants and the resource will be presented to Delta primary teachers in February. Participants left with  their own mini Raven the trickster, theme bag and ideas to incorporate into their teaching.

This collaborate project with TFN was an exciting way to contribute to the transformation of education. Both parties were active participants and all ideas were valued. As we move towards a more inclusive curriculum, where Aboriginal ways are understood as being valuable for all learners, we look forward to working together on the development of more resources.  As we continue to blend education perspectives, we continue to learn from and honour each other. That indeed will be the ultimate partnership.

We would like to thank two teachers at Chalmers Elementary, Christine Rennie for piloting the program and Alyson Quan for opening her classroom to us, to see if this would work!