April 07, 2015 - 4:51 PM
KAMLOOPS - When you are learning about nature it doesn't really make sense to be holed up in a school gymnasium, so Stuart Wood Elementary students spent part of the day at Riverside Park learning about the Secwepemc and Nlaka’Pamux First Nations and what their beliefs and traditions can teach us today.
Tuesday, April 7, marked the second annual Day of Secwentwecw in School District 73. This year’s theme was connecting to the land and Stuart Wood Elementary Principal Syd Griffith decided it didn’t make sense to teach children about nature during an assembly in the school gymnasium. Instead students were divided into two groups, Grades 4 to 7 and Kindergarten to Grade 3, and sent down to Riverside Park.
Griffith started the morning by explaining the purpose of the day’s activities and who it was the class was acknowledging. Aboriginal resource teacher Daniel Lysons then performed a traditional welcoming, accompanied by student helpers on ceremonial drums. During the sessions students took part in activities that taught the native culture while working with each other.
“Some of these kids live in tiny apartments and don’t have the opportunity to be out in nature,” Grade 4 teacher Kelly Charron noted of the opportunity to take part in these types of activities.
The students split into groups and planted large saplings along the river’s edge. With help from City of Kamloops staff, each child took a turn with a shovel. Many were dressed in flip-flops or canvas shoes and would jump two-footed on the shovel in an attempt to break some particularly tough ground.
Griffin hoped that students would bring their parents back to the spot in the park where the trees were planted. Not only did she wish them to show off their accomplishments, but in the spirit of the day, she hoped to create a connection with students to a piece of the park.
Brought back to the original meeting place, Lysons performed a smudging ceremony with the students. With sage burning in a hollowed-out shell, he explained that students should direct the smoke into their eyes, their mouth and to their heart to cleanse the body and spirit of negative energy. This would allow them to now only see, say and feel positive things.
Griffith explained that this sort of mindfulness is a year-round goal. Aboriginal studies is incorporated into the curriculum. As part of a science class children build replica fishing traps, like the Secwepemc would use during the salmon run. In high school, native languages are credited as course work.
“It’s a process,” she says. “Programs must be meaningful and integrated well.”
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