Southern Alberta school launches one-of-a-kind program with big Indigenous component

A new program at a southern Alberta school is designed to connect students to the land while honouring First Nations culture and values.

Carseland Elementary is taking its students outdoors and into nature with Ik-ka-Nutsi Park partnership

Grade 5 student Jasmine Hickman, left, and Kaysea Boake are excited for the new land-based program and to learn about First Nation Culture. (Livia Manywounds/CBC)

A new program at a southern Alberta school is designed to connect students to the land while honouring First Nations culture and values — and it's been in the works for about four years.

Students, faculty and guests poured into Carseland Elementary School gymnasium recently to learn about the Ik-ka-Nutsi Park partnership.

A respected Siksika elder opened the assembly with Blackfoot knowledge and a prayer.

The program is a partnership with corporate support, a Siksika Nation cultural consultant and the Wyndham-Carseland Provincial Park.

Grade 5/6 teacher Claire Wade is behind the program.

"It's been a long project and I received an incredible amount of support. It's been a long time coming and it's for my students" she said.

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Claire Wade teaches grades 5 and 6 and spearheaded the land-based program. (Livia Manywounds/CBC)

"I think land-based learning is powerful learning. I wrote a paper on the parallels or powerful learning and Indigenous ways of knowing and I think this is 21st-century learning. This is the way to the future and it's sustainability."

It recognizes and respects the values of First Nation culture in the context of nature.

"It is an opportunity for them to learn about nature, the Siksika terms for them and hopefully build an interest," said Joyce Doore, the Siksika Nation cultural liaison.

Blackfoot language learning and nature-related stories are also goals of the program.

"The children will do experiential learning with our partnership with the parks," Doore said.

Joyce Doore is the Siksika Nation cultural liaison for the Ik-ka-Nutsi program. She's looking forward to the enthusiasm and excitement the children are going to have. (Livia Manywounds/CBC)

Trips to the provincial park are planned weekly. Students will learn about plants, trees and the Blackfoot words to describe them.

Student Kaysea Boake can't wait to experience the new program.

"I feel awesome. In my other schools, we never got the chance to do these kinds of things," Boake said.

Engaging in physical fitness, building social relationships and increasing self confidence are added benefits.

Carseland Elementary School received the 2018 Environmental Stewardship award. (Livia Manywounds/CBC)

Jasmine Hickman is looking forward to a deeper understand of First Nation culture.

"I'm really excited about it and I like learning about new things so that makes me pretty happy," the Grade 5 student said.

The partnership starts in the 2019/2020 school year and it's open to Grade 5 and 6 students, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous.


Livia Manywounds is a reporter with the CBC in Calgary, a rodeo competitor and a proud member of the Tsuut’ina First Nation.