First Nations children learn language and culture outdoors
Aboriginal Head Start program Under One Sky offers new preschool program in Fredericton
Some aboriginal children in Fredericton are learning about traditional Maliseet language and culture in a new outdoor preschool program.
"I saw a Mihku," says four-year-old Maia Okoye, explaining that's the Maliseet word for squirrel. She can also imitate the animal's chatter.
"The children do the leading," says project manager Moon Joyce. "It's their curiosity."
The Take it Outside learning project is part of the Aboriginal Head Start program Under One Sky.
Joyce says executive director Patsy McKinney helped come up with the idea.
"She grew up in northern New Brunswick — Eel River Bar — and she just remembered what it was like as a child to be outdoors and to do your learning outdoors and to listen to her language being spoken among her granny and aunts. And she wanted these children to have an opportunity to get back to their roots."
"The trees in this culture are referred to as standing people and so now they understand the relationship between themselves and the trees all around them that give oxygen for us to breathe," she says.
When the program started in September the children weren't quite sure what to do outdoors, says Joyce, but now they arrive smiling and are excited to get into the woods to their favourite climbing trees another spots.
They've also built a lot of resilience, she says.
"Walking in the soft snow now they're falling a lot, but they just roll — they just run with it, you know. They get up again and just keep on going. No tears."