These Island students got to explore a giant Indigenous floor map of Canada

A giant floor map showing Indigenous territory names, languages, and locations of residential schools is coming to schools across P.E.I. Grade 6 students at West Kent Elementary in Charlottetown were the first Island students to check it out.

‘It's a cool way to look at not just Canada, but Turtle Island’

Kids on P.E.I. interact with giant Indigenous floor map

2 years ago
Duration 3:27
Featured VideoThe map, which shows Indigenous place names and languages, will be used by P.E.I.'s department of education and lifelong learning at schools across the province.

A giant floor map showing Indigenous territory names, languages, and locations of residential schools is coming to classrooms across P.E.I. — and Grade 6 students at a Charlottetown elementary school were the first to check it out.

The map, which will be incorporated into the provincial curriculum, was created by Canadian Geographic Education, a program of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. 

"It's a cool way to look at not just Canada, but Turtle Island … to see it without those borders and how it would have been viewed years and years and years ago," said Rebecca Dawson-VanOuwerkerk, a student teacher at West Kent Elemtary School and a UPEI bachelor of education student specializing in Indigenous studies. 

The students spent time wandering around on the map, measuring distances, finding place names, and learning about map co-ordinates. 

Students at Charlottetown's West Kent Elementary had the chance to work with a giant Indigenous floor map. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

"Not only did we do some of the social studies stuff, but we matched it with some of the math things that we're doing," said Dawson-VanOuwerkerk. 

'Pretty cool'

The map was developed in collaboration with Indigenous educators and consultants. It has no provincial or territorial borders or names, instead showing the names of hundreds of Indigenous communities, the languages spoken, and the treaties. 

Around the edges is a timeline of events in Indigenous histories from around 2000 BC to 2017.

"The map itself is just overwhelming. There's so much information to take in", said Dawson-VanOuwerkerk. 

It's a part of P.E.I.'s history and we live here, so we should know it.— Grade 6 student Jane Lee

Grade 6 student Jane Lee said using the map was fun and challenging.

"It's a part of P.E.I.'s history and we live here, so we should know it," said Lee. 

Student Cadence Lam agreed.  

"It was really interesting because I was not born in Canada and I don't have a lot of knowledge of the Indigenous stuff, so it was pretty cool," she said. 

Student teacher and UPEI student Rebecca Dawson-VanOuwerkerk says hands-on learning is great for every student. 'I don't even know if they realized they were learning today, which is kind of the best thing.' (Jane Robertson/CBC)

Hands-on learning

The map was sent to P.E.I.'s Department of Education and Lifelong Learning. Officials plan to bring it into more P.E.I. schools over the winter, along with UPEI student teachers who will explain to teachers how the map could be used alongside the provincial curriculum. 

"It's just a great resource to make the learning from the classroom real," said Jack Headley, the grades 7 to 12 social studies and innovation leader with the department. 

Headley said the department was already updating the grades 7 and 8 curriculum, including social studies, and the map is a great fit. 

"One of the things that we knew needed to be updated was it needed to have Indigenous content, Indigenous knowledge and Indigenous ways of knowing within the curriculum," he said. 

Jack Headley with P.E.I.'s Department of Education and Lifelong Learning says more students are coming to school knowing about Indigenous issues. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

'Their eyes lit up'

Headley said students are learning more and more about Indigenous issues in the news. 

"What our students know about Indigenous issues today is very different than it would have been even last spring. So they come to school with questions and they want to find answers to those questions," he said. 

Headley said he thinks using the map was a "memorable experience" for the West Kent students. 

"As soon as they walked in the room, their eyes lit up … no one was off-task. They were all having fun."

The Grade 6 students walk on the map during the activity. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

Dawson-VanOuwerkerk said this kind of hands-on learning is important for every student.

"It makes memories for the students when they look back on Grade 6. This will likely be one of those things that kind of sticks out," she said. 

When she was in elementary school, she didn't learn much about Indigenous issues, and Dawson-VanOuwerkerk said she feels like she missed out. 

"So it's cool being the person that gets to introduce students to that now, that are going through that same age bracket that I was."


Isabelle Gallant is an Acadian radio producer and web writer based in Prince Edward Island. She has worked at the CBC for 15 years.