The last week in September was National Truth & Reconciliation Week. KCS recognized Orange Shirt Day as a school on September 30. Our Junior School students were invited by student leaders, Liesl & Vivian, to contribute to a mural in our front lobby after we read the book ‘You Hold Me Up’ by Monique Gray Smith. Students also read fiction and non-fiction age-appropriate material in their library classes related to this topic.
Here are some examples of the thoughtful learning that took place over the course of the week.
In Kindergarten, Grade 1 and 2 Phys. Ed. classes, students have learned about different games played by Indigenous children and why they are culturally important. They have also been learning about the medicine wheel as a way of viewing the world.
In the Grade 1 Be Creative Club, students designed their own orange shirts with messages surrounding the theme ‘Every Child Matters’. In their Art class, they read the story ‘You Hold Me Up’ by Monique Gray Smith. Students each chose a person in their lives who holds them up and drew their portraits, which are on display in our Grade 1 hallway. Students also made animals masked, which were inspired by the story ‘Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox.’
Here is what some Grade 2 students shared with us in assembly about their learning: “In Grade 2, we listened to many different stories about the children at residential schools. We designed our own orange shirts, colorful dresses and made feathers. We learned that they took Phyllis’ orange shirt away from her at her residential school. We learned that children should never be treated like they were and that we need to make sure that it never happens again.”
The Grade 3 students shared their learning in assembly too! Here is their message about what they are learning: “In Grade 3, we learn all about communities in Canada, starting from when the Indigenous people were first here. In class, we’ve been learning about Indigenous people and how they were treated a long time ago. Indigenous people were forced to go to residential schools. They had to eat and sleep there, and they weren’t allowed to see their families. This was so sad. People cut their hair off, changed their names, and made everyone wear the same clothes. One girl wore an orange shirt, and it was taken away from her. These are a few of the reasons why we now have Orange Shirt Day. We want to remember the awful times that Indigenous people had and make sure this doesn’t happen again. The Grade 3s are thinking hard about how we can help make a difference and help make things right for Indigenous people today. We hope you will help!”
In Grade 7 History class, students learned about different perspectives about land in North America. There were very clear differences between how Europeans and Indigenous communities used the land. The Grade 7 students also completed a self-directed project about how education is a key part of reconciliation. For example, they explored how students in Sudbury brought a Pow-Wow to their school so that they could share the experience with their classmates.
Both Grade 7 and 8 attended a session online with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. We heard from artist Carey Newman about his project called the Witness Blanket. He gathered artifacts from people and places about the residential school experience and created a blanket from those artifacts. The blanket is an amazing 12 metres long and each of the artifacts tells a story. The blanket has been on tour across Canada and now is also an online exhibit that everyone can visit. The Grade 8 students also began their inquiry projects in History class. Their driving question is: How might we address and participate in the process of reconciliation? It will be interesting to see what they come up with in their research.
We are grateful and encouraged by the many different activities that were associated with Truth & Reconciliation Week at KCS. What we also know is that the learning continues throughout the year here. Our faculty has taken on this important responsibility and we are grateful for their thoughtful, respectful planning and engagement.
Citizenship Education Coordinator & Grade 7 Teacher