The Nanaimo school district took a field trip to research, study and learn more about the possibilities in aboriginal education.
Nanaimo-Ladysmith Public Schools organized a contingent to travel to Prince George earlier this month to find out more about that district’s Nusdeh Yoh Aboriginal Choice School.
The Prince George school district has aboriginal education at all its schools, but the aboriginal choice school places additional emphasis on First Nations culture, history, language and values, according to the school website.
The Nanaimo team – which included representation from district staff, board of trustees, labour and Snuneymuxw – presented its initial impressions to the Nanaimo school board at a meeting March 16.
A takeaway from the trip that several representatives mentioned was how it built relationships and strengthened bonds among the participants. Board chairman Steve Rae got choked up talking about it and Manson said she really felt as though Snuneymuxw was a partner.
The Nanaimo contingent met with the the Prince George school district for discussion one day, then spent the next day seeing the school first-hand. It wasn’t an experience that could have happened via conference call or Skype, said Anne Tenning, the school district’s vice-principal of aboriginal education.
“It’s really given us ideas and motivation to continue moving forward, because this work is challenging,” she said.
Emmy Manson, a Snuneymuxw councillor, said some of the learning taking place at the Prince George school isn’t just for the brain, but also for the spirit and the heart.
“They were teaching about emotional intelligence and I think that’s the piece that we’re not teaching our kids enough, about resiliency and about coping skills. Life isn’t easy,” she said.
The Prince George team talked to its visitors about successes and also challenges and really opened up its binders and shared information, said the Nanaimo reps.
“We should be looking at what does a vision mean for us? It’s really [about] defining that vision and then going out and taking action, developing our steps…” said Tim Davie, assistant superintendent. “I am certain that we cannot take whatever they did in Prince George and just plop that in and apply it to be our own. But certainly what it gave us was a starting point to leap off from.”
The Nanaimo team will further discuss its Prince George mission and will be expected to present a more formal report to the board.
“I think one of the comments was think outside the circle, and I like that,” Manson said. “I think that sometimes we’ve had to change as indigenous people to fit into systems and it’s about time systems changed to fit us.”