By: Jackie Taypotat, Aboriginal Education Instructional Consultant
What started out as integrating Aboriginal content into Air and Water outcomes with Erin Toppings, a Grade 2 teacher at Dr. Perry School, ended up being much more. After collaborating with Erin, she decided it would be beneficial and necessary for her students to learn background knowledge, in order to understand the Indigenous teachings or Ways of Knowing that were to be presented. After emailing her unit, we were able to communicate back and forth with ideas and resources.
Erin was unsure of her students’ knowledge of First Nations and Metis peoples, so exploring stereotypes seemed to make sense. This was introduced at the beginning of the unit, by asking students to draw a picture of a First Nations or Metis person.
Next a definition of stereotypes was introduced, and examples were generated.
This was an opportunity for discussion, questions and at times explanations of why the images were accurate and positive or inaccurate and negative.
It not only made sense in teaching about air and water, but as an important piece of background knowledge. Out of Worldview came such teachings as: Turtle Island, diversity, Mother Earth, and the Sacred Number 4.
The Aski series of books and Teacher`s Guide were used to support the teachings of this unit. Story bags or theme bag were also used to teach a Creation story, Worldview and Turtle Island. A game was used to help students understand diversity on Turtle Island, showing the similarities and differences amongst Nations. Students are then able to make connections about contemporary First Nations peoples. For the game, visit my blog at: http://jackietaypotat.blogspot.ca/p/blog-page_1903.html
Elder Betty McKenna visited the classroom to share her knowledge and tell traditional stories about air and water. Connections were also made to the following Treaty Outcome: TR2.1: Examine how the Treaties are the basis for harmonious relationships in which land and resources are shared.
A big thank you to Erin Toppings and her Grade 2 class for their outstanding work!
Here are some of their comments:
“Incorporating Treaties and FNM Ways of Knowing has been a daunting task within my first two years of teaching. I have felt the struggle of wanting to incorporate FNMI content into my teaching but wanting to do so in a culturally sensitive and accurate way. In the planning stages of this Air and Water inquiry unit, I knew that I wanted to incorporate First Nations worldview as part of the study. Jackie Taypotat has been fantastic in sharing primary-appropriate resources and ideas to help my students and I understand the FNM Ways of Knowing. The worldview map visuals that we constructed together really allowed my students to understand the differences between FN worldview and European worldview. With this background knowledge, we were able to tie everything back to worldview. We tied every environmental issue today back to the differing worldviews. Learning about worldview also helped us understand treaty relationships (i.e. how FN and Europeans viewed and understood land/ownership).
My favourite part of this unit is that my students are continuing to challenge FNMI stereotypes. Students continue to bring items into the classroom that they believe depict stereotypes and then we discuss whether they portray FNMI people positively or negatively. This has also allowed me to take a closer look at my own perceptions of FNMI culture and the information, visuals, and literature that I present to my students.
“I learned that the Creator is at the top and the humans are at the bottom.”
“Mother Earth can live without humans but humans can’t live without Mother Earth.”
“North America is called Turtle Island by First Nations people.”