British Columbia

New B.C. school curriculum overhauls method of teaching First Nations history

The way B.C. students learn about First Nations is changing with the new school curriculum.

Every grade and every subject — even math — will have some First Nations content

In the new B.C. education curriculum, Grade 5 students will learn about the history and impact of residential schools on First Nations children. Pictured here are students from St. Joseph's residential school in Williams Lake, B.C. (Indian Residential School Resources)

The way B.C. students learn about First Nations history is changing with the new school curriculum.

Joanne Chrona, a curriculum coordinator with the First Nations Education Steering Committee, said First Nations content will be integrated throughout the curriculum from K to Grade 9, in all subjects.

Grades 10 to 12 students will see similar changes next year.

Chrona described the process of developing the curriculum.

"It's been exciting to see, it's been challenging in some areas. People had to wrestle with what does it look like to be integrating First Nations content in math, what does it look like in science? "

Some examples of changes in the new curriculum include teaching residential school history, incorporating the importance of storytelling in First Nations culture, teaching traditional ecological knowledge in science classes, and incorporating First Nations symbols in different classes.

New curriculum a small step

Chrona said she would like the province to go much further with the new curriculum, but acknowledged the system might not be ready.

"We're at beginning places. Part of the challenge is that we've had education systems where First Nations content has been absent — relatively absent — from K-12 and also post-secondary for many teachers right now in our education system," Chrona said.

She said teachers will require support and will have to work with school boards and districts going forward, and they will also have to be willing to share information.

Chrona said there have been teachers who have already been incorporating First Nations content throughout the years on their own initiative.

"We have the opportunity to engage in learning in our schools right now in ways that can shift the relationship between First Nations people and the rest of Canada substantially."

With files from The Early Edition

To hear the interview, click on the link labelled How does B.C.'s new curriculum include a First Nation's perspective?