A project enabled Woodlands Secondary School students to gain a better understanding of aboriginal culture through a number of different disciplines, say teachers.
The project involved the cedar tree and its importance to Nanaimo First Nations. It was incorporated to numerous subjects, including math and fine arts. Teachers often don’t feel confident teaching aboriginal topics, Nanaimo school district said, and by working together, information could be shared.
Clarice Tyce, a math and science teacher, there were ways to use it in her subject areas.
“In terms of the math part, we did measuring, some metric to imperial conversions, some trigonometry … so that was a lot of the focus. In science, we looked at the ecology of the temperate rain forest, physiology of how trees work,” said Tyce.
While students learned about circumferences, density and height of cedar trees, there was also an opportunity for hands-on learning, which students said they enjoyed, as they also weaved bracelets and baskets out of cedar.
“I feel like talking seems boring in classes and I’m not engaged to it, but when we start doing things like actually making the bracelets and not just learning about them … we actually got to make the stuff and then use it,” said Cassie Carmichael, a Grade 8 student.
Grade 12 photography class students also participated, acting as peer tutors.
“It was outdoors and they got to learn about something that was really important and that I feel a lot of people should know and it also helped me on my project because I got to take a whole bunch of pictures of the Grade 8s,” said student Quianna Russ.
Emily Recalma, Woodlands’ aboriginal student support teacher and Hesquiaht First Nation member, said the goal was to have local aboriginal appreciation.
“As a student … we learned a lot about Haida, plains Indians, and as an aboriginal person myself, I loved to learn about that, but it never felt like it had to do with me or places I recognized in my community. We wanted it to mean something, not only to the aboriginal students from this local spot, but also to other students to have just an awareness of what’s around them,” said Recalma.