maple leaf First Nation's Content in the Classroom

Three "approaches" to FN content in the classroom:

  1. Add-on
  2. Integration
  3. Immersion = Wholistic Curriculum?

"Add-on" Integrated Immersion


- a unit is added to a course which focuses on FN issues, such as FN art, etc.
- units on FN issues are included in various courses in appropriate places
- students get real-life experiences in a FN culture Best with number of students
- any number of students
- a few FN students in the classroom
- (FN a minority or majority)
- many FN students
- or when studying FN cultures

Best to use when

- studying FN cultures
- when it's hard to convince teachers to integrate the content into the curriculum
- not usually as effective as integration or immersion
- there are only a few FN students in a class

- in most classrooms in the province, this is the type that should be strived for (if few/lots of FN students) - want students to have realistic cultural experiences - if class is predominantly FN, they should experience this type once in a while-to-often


- can be added at any time
- modular
- can be added for every unit in any course
- validates FN people/history/etc
- great for any class size
- realistic experiences
- great for cross-cultural awareness
- enters a culture, including values...


- often don't have enough of them
- doesn't always address Goal #1 for FN students
- most teachers don't give the time necessary to FN issues to do it effectively
- time, and money, intensive

1. Add-on

There are two goals for First Nations education:

  1. to reinforce a strong sense of First Nations identity, through cultural activities/awareness and
  2. to make a good living in modern society.

The essential goals of any First Nations curriculum is to do the following:

NOTE: These goals should be the basis of any FN curriculum, be it "Added-on", integrated into the curriculum, or as an immersion activity.

Examples of add-on programs:

1. Make Prayer to Raven

a) 5-30 min videos on the Koyukon People in Alaska
This is a 5 part video series on the Koyukon people living along the Koyukut River in nothern Alaska. This series attempts to show how the Koyukon have adapted their life style and philosophical approaches to modern civilization The series shows some of the traditional activites that are done during the four seasons, and how modern conviencies are used, when appropriate. A large part of the series is spent trying to explain the core value system and philosophy of the Koyukon people. It explores the Koyulon's relationships to themselves, their community, and to the natural world.

b) Teacher's Activity Guide
David Rattray developed a Teacher's Guide to accompany the video series. The guide summarizes each video; gives suggested activities for different age/ability students; and tries to encourage making comparisons to the world today.

This type of program can be taught at any level, and when the videos, and activities are complete, little reference is made to it, unless there are "teachable moments" where connections can be further made during the year.

2. First Nations Journeys of Justice:

Building Bridges of Understanding Between Nations

A cornerstone of this curriculum is based on storytelling, which is the oral tradition of all First Nations people. First Nations people taught the younger generation through the telling of stories that carried messages. As young people grew up, they would learn many different lessons from the same story.

Two Goals of First Nations Journeys of Justice

  1. Explore Concepts of Justice:
  2. Concepts Must be Practical and Usable:

This type of curriculum, although it is an add-on can be expanded to be usable throughout the year. These concepts of justice can be taught, reinforced, and encouraged to continue long after the curriculum has been taught. Thus, an add-on program can become very valuable.

Add-on programs can be valuable if:

  1. they are used appropriately,
  2. they meet needs of First Nations (and other) students,
  3. they are used with respect.

Assumptions, values, and beliefs of different cultures must be respected

Patronization is as wrong as omission

2. Integration

Theme: Change

Grade 6/7 class

Subject Topic Ideas
Math Bases other than Base 10
  • Discovery of the concept of zero - Arabia
  • Roman Numerals
  • Computers base two
  • Mayan calendar base twenty
Science & CAPP Human Body
  • Body systems
  • Beauty
    • today
    • local FN culture
  • Relationships from two points of view (Euro-Canadian and local FN community)
    • to self
    • to community
    • to nature
Social Studies Irish
  • Potato famine of 1848
  • Comodore Perry and the closed-door policy
  • Water pump and canals
  • Factors leading up to Confederation
First Nations
  • Project: Simulation Game on Reservations
  • Treaties & Reservations
Language Arts Legends & Fairy Tales
  • Cinderella and Little Burnts All Over
Art Based on the two stories that were being studied
  • "Fairy tale" art
  • West Coast Art
  • Ojibway art style

The goal of integration is to allow all students opportunities to study about their own cultural heritage and make sense of it, and to share it with others.

3 Immersion

Example of an immersion project: Drummaking

Immersion means to immerse the students in experiences that are relevant to that particular culture. It becomes difficult to do an immersion project in today's society because whatever project is undertaken often has a "past" and a "contemporary" component. Community input is critical to decide if immersion means "in the past" or "in contemporary society". I personally believe that we need to blend them together, as this example demonstrates. This project started out as a drummaking activity which grew, and grew.....

  • Wood bending
  • Working with wood working tools
  • Working with hides
  • Philosophy of drums
  • Importance of drums
  • First Nations' art styles
  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Learning how to use basic woodworking tools
  • Interfacing two types of materials, wood and hide, with different shrinking/expanding characteristics
  • Research/make drums from other cultures
  • Learn about various First Nations' art styles such as West Coast Art
  • Using inks/paints/etc.
  • Research local songs/dances
  • Interviewing of elders/singers/dancers
  • Learning how to do basic research, including use of tape recorder, framing questions, showing respect by presenting elder with gift, learning the local protocol around use of songs and dances, etc.
  • Learn how to public speak and perform in public
  • Sewing
  • Research family crests & clans
  • West Coast art on appliqué
  • Holding a Button Blanket Ceremony
  • Styles
  • Sewing
  • Beading
  • Other regalia important to the local community
  • Learning about self in relationship to the community
  • Learning how to take an art form and modify it to fit a different medium
  • Cultural research
  • Potluck = cooking/planning/etc.
  • Cultural changes that have occurred
  • Where to go
  • How to "sell" group
  • Fund-raising
  • Booking performances
  • Booking hotel rooms
  • Budget monitoring
  • Getting along
  • Math
  • Reading/writing
  • Self-esteem
  • Cultural awareness
  • Sharing culture with others
  • Professional conduct
All kinds of activities that relate to achieving a goal
  • How to use hide remnants
  • Cultural awareness
  • Bookkeeping
  • Running a small business TEACHING
  • Teaching younger students to sing/dance, make drums, etc. STICK GAMBLING
  • Bringing community into a cultural activity in a positive way
  • Start small business selling remnants by designing rattles/small
  • drums/etc and advertise and selling kits
  • Computers to monitor accounts and write letters/etc.
    • Community helps give direction to what is being done
    • How to make snow shoes
    • Using them afterwards
    • Bush safety
    • Winter travel
    • Helping others
    • Etc.
    Making snowshoes and NOT using them degrades the value of snowshoes. Snowshoes were an important way of travelling. They were also important in creating determination, character, etc. in a person. But to create determination and character, the snowshoes must be used in real life situations.

    Some people may say this is not immersion because:

    1. it is not done on the land,
    2. it has a large contemporary component
    3. it is not "totally FN" in its scope

    General questions:

    1. What do you think immersion means?
    2. What does the local FN community say immersion is?
    3. Who's responsible for immersion programs?
    4. What level(s) of commitment is your School District prepared to assist?

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