Southern Alberta school launches one-of-a-kind program with big Indigenous component
Carseland Elementary is taking its students outdoors and into nature with Ik-ka-Nutsi Park partnership
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.
"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.
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.
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.