Manitoba

Manitoba Grade 2 class pens poem to honour Kamloops residential school victims

Tina Latrofa’s Grade 2 class was saddened when they learned about the discovery at the site of a former residential school in British Columbia that sent shockwaves across the country last month.

Students also illustrated poem in book, posted reading of it online

This still is from a video a class at Oak Bank Elementary posted of them reading a poem they wrote to honour the victims of residential schools. (Tina Latrofa/YouTube)

Tina Latrofa's Grade 2 class was saddened when they learned about the discovery at the site of a former residential school in British Columbia that sent shockwaves across the country last month.

That's why they decided to write a poem to honour the 215 children whose possible remains were identified in a grounds survey of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

One of the lines in that poem, called Gone But Never Forgotten was written by one of Latrofa's eight-year-old students at Oak Bank Elementary just east of Winnipeg, Kara Brinkman.

"Birds may sing, but the Earth still weeps," she wrote.

Kara said she wrote that line to express how heartbroken she felt when she learned about the discovery at school one day.

"It may seem happy — all the birds are singing — but deep down, everything is actually still sad," she said on Saturday.

Listen to the students read their poem:

Kara said she hopes her class's poem, which they have since illustrated in a book and posted a video online of themselves reading, helps more kids learn about Canada's residential school system.

"Because of all of those Indigenous children who had to go to the residential schools, I feel so bad. And a lot of other people should, too," she said.

"I just feel like everyone really should know."

Importance of learning history

Latrofa said her class had already learned a bit about residential schools in the fall, so they had some background knowledge when they talked about the discovery in Kamloops more recently.

She said one of her students suggested they write a poem to express how they felt about it, so she brought her class of 21 outside to brainstorm.

They combined imagery from nature with how they felt thinking about the children who were forced to attend the schools.

"The kids, like, blew me out of the water," Latrofa said.
The Grade 2 class of Oak Bank Elementary combined nature imagery and how they felt about kids being forced to attend residential schools in writing their poem. (Submitted by Tina Latrofa)
"They came up with the most beautiful statements that took me by surprise for that age group."

She said she's glad to have the chance to teach her students about residential schools because it's something she never learned when she was in school.

And it's only something that's really become part of her teaching in the last few years.

"My generation, we never were taught this. It was not part of our history of Canada at all," she said.

"I think it's important that we really give the future generations the proper education of the history of Canada and what actually happened."

Latrofa said she hopes if any survivors of residential schools hear her class's poem, they see the empathy and compassion she sees in her students.

"I hope that it gives them hope that the future generations will make a change," she said.

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