Cree learning in northern Quebec moves online

Faced with COVID-19 school shutdowns until at least May, the Cree School Board in northern Quebec has launched an online platform offering lessons and resources in East Cree, English and French. 

Cree School Board launches digital platform during COVID-19 school shutdowns

The Cree School Board has launched an online learning platform to help students continue advancing during province-wide school closures caused by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. (Cree School Board)

Faced with COVID-19 school shutdowns until at least May, the Cree School Board in northern Quebec has launched an online platform offering lessons in English and French and some resources in East Cree.

The idea is to get students back to learning in a culturally relevant way — either at home or in the bush — while schools are closed.

"We didn't know what would come from the [Quebec Ministère de l'Éducation], but we knew it wouldn't suit us because we teach Cree language all the way from pre-K to secondary 5 [Grade 11]," said Kim Quinn, the director of school operations for the Cree School Board (CSB). 

"So we had to develop resources for families to learn at home, and keep engaging with the language."

Exceptional times are calling for exceptional solutions.- Abraham Jolly, director general of the Cree School Board.

The CSB Online Learning Platform, or OLP, offers books, games, puzzles, songs, videos and projects in many different subjects, including math and science, for students from Grade 1 to 11. It draws on resources prepared by the Quebec ministry of education, as well as the CSB's own curriculum and other educational resources. 

"Exceptional times are calling for exceptional solutions," said CSB director general Abraham Jolly, in a press release about the new tool, which launched on April 3 for Grades 1 to 3.

Abraham Jolly is the director general of the Cree School Board. (Cree School Board)

The site is being made available progressively to other grades, with a plan to update the materials and lesson plans weekly. 

"This platform gathers grade-specific material into a user-friendly experience that can be easily accessed at home," said Jolly.

Materials adapted for bush life

The site also includes a section called "In the Bush" and many of the materials are being made available in a format more easily adapted to bush life, according to CSB director of operations Kim Quinn.

She says it's important because many Cree families are heading out for the annual goose break holiday, a tradition among Cree in northern Quebec

"Families are going away. We're trying to make sure that there are PDF documents that could be printed," said Quinn. 

For the lower grades the exercises are not mandatory, she said, but older students in Grades 10 and 11 will be able to complete projects to improve their grades. 

Some of the resources and materials on the site are available in East Cree, English and French and will be updated weekly. A sister platform has also been created for the Grade 11 students. (Cree School Board)

Schools across Quebec have been shuttered since March 13 and will remain closed until at least May 4.

Provincial exams, which are mandatory for Grades 10 and 11 students in Quebec, have been cancelled. The Cree School Board has also cancelled its exams, according to Quinn.

Students paired up with mentors

Over the last several days, more than 500 Cree students in Grades 10 and 11 have been paired up with a mentor who will support their at-home or at-camp learning during the shutdown.

The board has also launched a separate platform for Grade 11 students to work more intensively and make sure they have the credits necessary to graduate.

"All of the students we've spoken to have expressed their willingness to graduate or work toward graduation," said Quinn.

The online learning platform came together through a lot of hard work and collaboration between the departments of school operations, education services and communications and community relations, according to Quinn. 

"We see it as a way in the future for us to continue to build on language development and other skills that maybe the families don't have the resources for at home."

Kim Quinn, director of school operations at the Cree School Board, says the platform is an opportunity to help Cree students long after schools have reopened. (Cree School Board)


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