PLC group brings history into the classroom through novels

Using culturally significant books to build empathy and resiliency

  • Dec. 22, 2014 8:00 a.m.
Vanier school is using the book Indian Horse to connect its students with the history of Canada's residential school system.

Vanier school is using the book Indian Horse to connect its students with the history of Canada's residential school system.

Nearly one-and-a-half years since the implementation of district-wide professional learning community (PLC) time in Comox Valley schools, the Comox Valley Record looks at a couple of examples of the work being done by staff at the elementary and secondary levels. The purpose of PLC time is to give staff designated time to work collaboratively on inquiry projects designed to improve student learning. In Part 1 of the series, the secondary level work is explored.

 

 

Renee Andor

Special to the Record

G.P. Vanier Secondary teacher Dave Miller’s PLC group this year is investigating the idea of using culturally significant books to build empathy and resiliency in students.

“What we mean by that is … things that kids can read to gain a greater appreciation or understanding of what happened in the past, which will help them make decisions and maybe change their ideas or attitudes about the way they approach the future,” says Miller.

Ice hockey as an escape

He introduced the novel Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese to his students in the G.P. Vanier Hockey Academy program (Grade 9-12), which includes ice hockey and English among other classes.

He says the book was a good fit for his students because it’s about a First Nation boy’s journey through the residential school system, and how ice hockey became a kind of escape from the horror he was living through.

District aboriginal curriculum support teacher Ken Lees jumped on board to help Miller and came into the class periodically to contribute.

“During the reading of the book, Ken and I would read to the kids and they would ask questions,” says Miller, noting he could expand on the aspects of hockey covered in the book and Lees could give insight on the residential school system.

Lees adds: “I told them right off the bat, ‘You can ask anything, be as blunt as you want,’ and they were. They asked some pretty good questions, questions that I thought they probably had for a long time.”

Miller continues: “And I think the fact that they’re asking those questions, and they’re in a position to ask those questions, is really helpful for everybody … It’s sort of part of a healing process.”

Visit to a sweat lodge

The students are now finished the novel and Lees notes the next step in the project, (in the new year), will see the  class go to a sweat lodge, something he points out is about healing, too.

“The sweat ceremony is a healing ceremony. You go into the sweat one way and you’re reborn a better person afterwards,” he says, adding he will have an elder come to the class before students do the sweat ceremony to provide information about sweats, like the protocols and why they’re done.

Students will also have time for reflection, adds Miller, noting they will look at how their feelings or perceptions about residential schools and First Nations people may have changed.

“When we take part in something (like this project), not only are we busting stereotypes and hopefully decreasing racism, we’re also coming together in a holistic manner,” says Miller. “I think that feeds into healing and understanding.

“The kids really are fresh still, they’re just kids still. So, by having a group like this take part, they’re going to leave with a better understanding of the world and I think they’re going to be better people for it.”

Student engagement key

Other teachers in Miller’s PLC group are using other culturally significant reading material in their own classrooms.

“What’s great about PLC time is that you get time to collaborate and you’re not running off your feet,” he says. “You’re trying to do something to engage the kids — rather than just chalk and talk or present information to them, we want the kids to be a part of the process — and so we need to collaborate and spend time to figure out how can we make this interesting, how can we make this engaging.”

For more information about PLC time in the school district, visit www.sd71.bc.ca.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dasher is back home with mom Christine Girvin thanks to some help from BC Ferries staff. Photo supplied
The cat came back, with help from Comox ferry staff

After Dasher made a dash, ferry staff found her and got her home safe

The Coast Range makes a spectacular backdrop for orca heading towards Discovery Passage of Campbell River Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Photo by Frank Neil
Island wildlife viewers thrilled by close view of passing Orca pod

Group gives wildlife photographers a classic oportunity to view them off Campbell River shoreline

A rendering of the Denman Green plans for the Kirk Road site. Image, DHA/Ronan Design
Denman Green finds new site for housing

Facing COVID delays, the project reached expiration date on initial site

A fawn stands in a field. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
MARS hoping to build fawn complex for rehab

Their goal is to raise $20,000 in a relatively short period of time.

Aspen Park in Comox is the latest school reporting a COVID-19 exposure. Screenshot, Google Maps
Fifth Comox Valley school reports COVID-19 exposure

Exposure at Aspen Park in Comox was reported for Feb. 22

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Photo: Lt. Sandy Pridmore, MARS Darlene Banerd, MARS, Warren Warttig and Captain Rob Stevens show the new automatic external defibrillator (AED) that will be located at the MARS facilities located at 1331 William Beach Road, Black Creek. Photo supplied
Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society adds AED to Williams Beach Road location

Submitted Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS) has collaborated with the Comox Firefighters… Continue reading

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

BC Ferries experienced heavy traffic on Feb. 27 following cancellations the day before due to strong winds and adverse weather. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries sailings fill up quickly after Friday cancellations due to high winds

Waits expected on Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route

Most Read