Students learn about Indigenous people by stepping into a giant map

Grade 5 students at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Elementary School in Windsor are learning about Indigenous people by stepping into a giant floor map.

'This map has been the greatest gift I've had probably in my educational career,' teacher says

This massive map is being used to teach students about First Nations communities, treaties, and residential schools. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

Grade 5 students at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Elementary School in Windsor are learning about Indigenous people by stepping into a giant floor map. 

It's the Canadian Geographic's Indigenous People's Atlas of Canada map which stretches 11 metres by 8 metres. It's so big that it couldn't fit in any of the school's classrooms so it was placed in the gym.

"This map has been the greatest gift I've had probably in my educational career," said Paul LaRocque, a grade 5 teacher at the school. 

"It's very tactile, the kids get to touch it, they get to feel it, they get to understand all about the First Nations."

An interactive experience

The map, and the tool kit it comes with, includes information about treaties, languages, the different First Nation communities around the country and residential schools. It also includes a timeline noting significant events in Indigenous history.

Students physically walk around the map, LaRocque explained, to help them better understand where First Nations settled throughout time, and what their interactions were like with settlers.

Grade 5 student Rachel Tennant likes being able to interact with the map.

"We can walk up and get closer to it, and then instead of just being able to look at it with our eyes we can actually feel around it."

'A sense of empathy'

Tennant, who is Metis herself, said this experience has helped her learn more about her roots.

Rachel Tennant says the lessons with the map have taught her more about her Metis roots. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

LaRocque said that the students have been really enthusiastic about the map. 

"Especially with a high First Nations population at our school, the children are really developing a sense of empathy to the First Nations," he said.

"They're getting a sense of how they struggled, how the Europeans struggled, and how survival took place."

The map arrived at the school on Monday, and it will stay there until Thursday before it goes to a secondary school in Leamington.

The Windsor Essex Catholic District School Board says it has the map for three weeks total, and then it travels on to another school district. 

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