Trafalgar’s principal wants the Nelson school’s curriculum completely indigenized within three years.
Paul Luck says Trafalgar took a step toward that goal by sending seven staff members to the 25th annual First Nations Education Steering Committee Indigenous education conference in Vancouver last weekend.
The conference, which this year offered over 30 workshops with a focus on meeting diverse student needs, helps teachers take the First Peoples Principles of Learning and apply them to lesson plans.
Luck, who is in his first full year as Trafalgar’s principal, said five of the seven staff members were Grade 6 teachers. Next year Trafalgar will send Grade 7 teachers, followed by Grade 8 in 2021.
“It’s a three-year rollout for us to do it properly, the way it deserves,” said Luck.
“We’re a school that doesn’t just talk about it, we do it. It’s going to require a lot of work and training and rethinking the ways we do things. I think it deserves to be done in the right way.”
In 2016, less than a year after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report was released, the Ministry of Education made inclusion of First Nations knowledge and perspectives mandatory in kindergarten to Grade 9. Grades 10 to 12 were also added in the ensuing years.
But it isn’t always clear how to take those principles and apply them to the classroom. That’s where Hannah Lunn comes in.
Lunn is School District 8’s indigenization co-ordinator as well as an Indigenous success teacher at Trafalgar. Her duties include collaborating with teachers on lesson plans that incorporate subjects such as First Nations governance.
Lunn previously researched Indigenous education as a student at the University of British Columbia in 2015. What she found was plenty of uncertainty among educators.
“A lot of teachers who I spoke with [expressed] fear about making mistakes or fear of not doing it right or fear of offending someone,” says Lunn.
Four years later, her job is to help alleviate that fear. Sending teachers to the conference, she says, is part of the solution.
“It’s really exciting to see teachers feel more confident, more excited and just feel more empowered to teach about Indigenous content,” said Lunn.
Trafalgar’s focus on Indigenous education isn’t unique in B.C., but School District 8 superintendent Christine Perkins says the school’s goal is that “nobody leaves there without going through an intense immersion in Indigenous knowledge.”
That aim, said Perkins, is in step with the province’s recent commitment in October to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.
“Honestly, we all live here, we all need to know this. It was probably missing out of a few people’s education along the way and we’re trying to make things right,” said Perkins.
“Let’s learn about the people who were here before us, and what is their language, their culture, what did they believe, what was their land like, what were their laws like and how do we work together to make a better future for all of us?”