School Name: Charles Hays Secondary School
School District: SD#52 Prince Rupert
Inquiry Team Members: Roberta Edzeza: email@example.com
Sandy Beckwith: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sandy Pond: email@example.com
Sonny Henry: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lori Burger: email@example.com
Lauren Neiser: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kathy Offutt: email@example.com
Nancy Griffith-Zahner: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lonni Bryant: email@example.com
Carla Rourke: firstname.lastname@example.org
Aja Lihou: email@example.com
Rebecca Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org
Raegan Sawka: email@example.com
Megan Cooper: firstname.lastname@example.org
Danielle Dueck: email@example.com
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE Transitions (focus on Indigenous learner transitions)
Grade Levels: Secondary (8-12)
Curricular Area(s): Arts Education, Language Arts – Oral Language, Social Studies, Other: Please see below
Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Community-based learning, Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Differentiated instruction, Experiential learning, First Peoples Principles of Learning, Flexible learning, Growth mindset, Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies, Indigenous pedagogy, Inquiry-based learning, Land, Nature or Place-based learning, Social and emotional learning, Transitions
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? To add layers of depth and understanding to the learning feast, welcoming grade 8’s to the high school.
Scanning: The original scanning process took place when this project began in 2014/2015. The project was initiated in response to the Transitions Inquiry Project. It was noted that students entering grade 9 from middle school may benefit from a sense of welcoming and belonging to their new school, Charles Hays Secondary. The students were asked the four key questions and the data was analyzed. The Feast was originally developed to foster a sense of community, belonging and leadership, both for new students from PRMS and for the older students already attending CHSS. The First Peoples Principles of Learning were used to plan and facilitate accessible lessons and learning around traditional practices and culture connected to Ts’msyen Feast and protocols.
Focus: This project was selected because the transition from middle to high school can be difficult for learners to navigate. The Feast is a cultural event that allows everyone, whether participating or planning, to learn cultural protocols, roles and responsibilities connected to the feast system. We hoped that our learners would gain a sense of belonging and feel connected to their school community. As 64% of our learner population is Indigenous, it was important for us to ensure that Indigenous knowledge and experiential learning was at the forefront of the project.
Hunch: Prior to the transition Feast, there wasn’t anything substantial or cultural that helped welcome grade 9 students into the high school. The cultural component of feasting came from the acknowledgment that there is a high number of Indigenous students in our district. As a result, we felt it was important to help them feel represented and welcome within their new school by planning an event with Ts’msyen culture as the foundation. It was our hunch that if students do not feel represented within their school (which is a colonial structure) then they may not feel safe or as though they belong.
New Professional Learning: For our professional learning, we read through and discussed the BC Ministry of Education’s Aboriginal Worldviews and Perspectives in the Classroom document, our school district’s Aboriginal Education Council’s Partnership Agreement as well as consulting with Local Ts’msyen Elders, knowledge holders and fluent Sm’algyax speakers. We also examined the Aboriginal Education Committee Council Annual Report, which contains data about how Aboriginal students are doing in our district.
Taking Action: Because this was going to be the fifth year of the Feast, we felt it was significant to recognize the grade 12’s, who were the first grade 9’s back in 2015 to participate in the Feast. We interviewed some of them to ask them what they remembered from grade 9 and how they think the Feast was beneficial for their transition into high school. All of the students we interviewed reported that it was comforting to know Ts’msyen culture was represented and valued at their school. Additionally, they all remembered Sm’algyax language being spoken at the Feast, and they reported they felt very comforted by this as they were all Sm’algyax students who planned to continue Sm’algyax language class in high school. It is important to note that all grade 12 students we interviewed were still taking Sm’algyax in their senior year. We also planned to make sure to recognize the grade 12 students who were volunteering in this years Feast, as the first grade 9’s to participate.
Checking: Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 restrictions, we weren’t able to have our annual Feast this year. We are hoping as things change that we might be able to host something similar in September, so the grade 9’s and other students at CHSS have an opportunity to meet and welcome one another. We will be revisiting this with high hopes once we know more and it is safe for everyone to proceed.
Reflections/Advice: By interviewing students and looking at data, we know the Feast is beneficial for grade 9’s in relation to their success and sense of belonging at school. We would highly recommend talking to your local First Nation to come up with a similar idea for various transitions. Over the years, it has become evident that the students at CHSS are beginning to take more pride in Ts’msyen culture and S’malygyax language. The Feast might be one of the contributors to this shift, and for that it is worth all the planning and hard work.