Indigenous Education Pedagogy Reading

Curriculum Connections

While we currently do not have a specific Indigenous curriculum in the Elementary Panel on Ontario, there are several ways you can teach the curriculum through an Indigenous lens. Here is a plan, connected to several strands of the Ontario curriculum from a variety of classes.

In looking at the First Nations, Metis, and Inuit Connections document, it appears that there are several possible connections. Reading through it, it becomes apparent that a lot of these connections are tenuous at best, or small examples buried in specific expectations, surrounded by other examples. There were comparatively few ideas in the younger grades (older grades have many more History and Geography connections) so I thought it would be an interesting challenge to plan for a younger group of primary students (Grade 1-3). 

The way I would envision this working would be as a large Inquiry Project, spanning several weeks. This would work better closer to the end of the year after students had had an opportunity to work on some smaller-scale projects to develop the skills needed for something like this. The focal point could be the science curriculum, looking at systems. 

“2. Developing Investigation and Communication Skills 

2.2 investigate and compare the basic needs of humans and other living things, including the need for air, water, food, warmth, and space, using a variety of methods and resources (e.g., prior knowledge, personal experience, discussion, books, videos/DVDs, CD-ROMs) Sample guiding questions: … Why do some Aboriginal people consider rocks to be living things? 

Understanding Earth and Space Systems 

1. Relating Science and Technology to Society and the Environment 1.2 assess ways in which daily and seasonal changes have an impact on society and the environment (e.g., … The Anishinaabe people tell their stories only in the winter when there is snow on the ground.)”

This could serve as an introduction to the topic. In researching and collecting the information about this, the discussions could branch out and involve a discussion of the roles of elders in indigenous societies, connecting to the Social Studies curriculum.

A. Heritage and Identity: Our Changing Roles and Responsibilities 

A3. Understanding Context: Roles, Relationships, and Respect 

A3.2 identify some of the significant people, places, and things in their life, including their life in the community (e.g., … Elder, …), and describe their purpose or the role they have Sample questions: … “What role does an Elder play in your community?” 

A3.4 identify some elements of respectful behaviour that they can practise in their everyday life (e.g., sharing, cooperating, being courteous, not damaging the natural or built environment) and/or that other people practise (e.g., … when meeting an Elder, one offers tobacco, a sacred medicine, for symbolic purposes) 

B. People and Environments: The Local Community 

B1. Application: Interrelationships within the Community 

B1.2 identify some services and service-related occupations in their community (e.g., … services provided by the … band office, …), and describe how they meet people’s needs, including their own needs 

B2. Inquiry: Interrelationships and Their Impact 

B2.2 gather and organize information on the interrelationship between people and the natural and built features of their community, and on the effects of this interrelationship, using sources that they have located themselves or that have been provided to them (e.g., use a tally sheet to monitor the use of garbage cans and recycling containers around the school; use a digital camera to record the amount of garbage on the ground in the park; organize satellite images that show changes in natural or built features in their community; interview a person who works in the park) Sample questions: … “How can we use satellite images of the First Nation reserve to help us create maps and locate familiar features that we use?” …

The mapmaking section could relate back specifically to the look at systems in the Science Curriculum. You could incorporate math, specifically data management by using a tally sheet to monitor the use of garbage cans around the school (this could also connect back to the systems section of science.) As well, the focus on not damaging the natural environment could connect to systems as well. The larger piece, involving respect for elders is a great opportunity to have guests come in, virtually or otherwise, to talk with the class. Members of the community at large, with a focus on Indigenous knowledge keepers, wherever appropriate and available would be an excellent way to learn about and practice all of these ideas. One such example would Tribal Vision Dance – a group that comes in and presents workshops and performances on traditional dance styles. This would connect nicely to the Dance curriculum. 

A. Dance 

A3. Exploring Forms and Cultural Contexts 

A3.1 describe, with teacher guidance, a variety of dances from different communities around the world that they have seen in the media, at live performances and social gatherings, or in the classroom (e.g., … powwow dance styles …) 

While there are no specific Language expectations included, there are several stories that would be excellent to work with, and would also connect to the drama curriculum.

B. Drama 

B3. Exploring Forms and Cultural Contexts 

B3.2 demonstrate an awareness of a variety of roles, themes, and subjects in dramas and stories from different communities around the world (e.g., … trickster themes in Nanabush stories from Native folklore …)

In Visual Arts, students could design posters (also connecting to Media Curriculum) detailing what they have learned about. Any successes in the project could be highlighted in red.

D. Visual Arts 

D2. Reflecting, Responding, and Analysing 

D2.3 demonstrate an awareness of signs and symbols encountered in their daily lives and in works of art (e.g., … red is associated with … success in Cherokee culture …)

Finally, in Health and Physical Education they could apply the following curriculum by playing some Indigenous games (such as those found here: ) They could also discuss Elders being a resource for help – tying back to the Social Studies Curriculum on respect.

A. Active Living 

A1. Active Participation A1.2 demonstrate an understanding of factors that contribute to their personal enjoyment of being active (e.g.,… having the opportunity to take part in activities that relate to their cultural background) as they participate in a wide variety of individual and small-group activities [PS] 

C. Healthy Living 

C1. Understanding Health Concepts Personal Safety and Injury Prevention 

C1.2 demonstrate an understanding of essential knowledge and practices for ensuring their personal safety (e.g., … seeking help from an … Elder …) [PS]

Although these Curriculum connections are specific to the Grade 1 program, these activities can be easily adapted to have connections with the Curriculums moving up the Grades. It would simply be a matter of working with colleagues to plan out some of the bigger events (for example, guest speakers, presentations) and have a few opportunities during PLCs to monitor progress with each other, share resources, and ensure everything was working well. Specialist teachers (such as Phys Ed or Music/Drama) could be brought in to share their experience and help with the development of their subject-specific knowledge. 

Indigenous Education Pedagogy

Inuit Worldview and the Ontario Curriculum

There are several strategies educators can use to help Inuit students take the best from the past and the best from the present to create a future for themselves based on a solid sense of who they are. Thinking especially of the younger students, I think that the play-based structure of the current kindergarten program could be a useful starting point. This would respect and honour several areas of Inuit culture and reflect it in the classroom. The relative amount of structured freedom would engage the student’s curiosity. Lessons could be built around real-world examples, to help them subtly build necessary skills and work towards having specific responsibilities. Having several kinesthetic-based activities can help them develop competence and dexterity so that they can be given more responsibilities and help contribute to the community as they get older. Of course, having the community, especially elders, involved would be key – they could help pass down traditions, and language while helping to give them extra attention. They could also help to incorporate lessons of respect and having pride for their traditions All of this could be taught with a great deal of humor and fun – having the students experience learning responsibilities to the community while engaging their curiosity in a fun and productive atmosphere would be a great way for them to develop a great sense of who they are and help them create a future for themselves.