–Ministry of Education
Three times each school year, the Sooke school district (SD62) comes together to acknowledge Aboriginal student successes – and there are plenty of reasons to celebrate.
The events celebrating Aboriginal achievements bring together a variety of Aboriginal communities in SD62. Aboriginal students make up approximately 10% of students enrolled in the district. Of these students, 14% are First Nations living on the Scia’new, Pacheedaht or T’Sou-ke Nations, while over 86% live off reserve.
The Aboriginal successes in Sooke are no coincidence. There has been a concentrated effort to engage with local First Nations communities.
A driver of Sooke’s Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement (AEEA) is the Aboriginal Education Department, which provides an inclusive model of educational programming to optimize classroom learning.
At the start of every school year, SD62 hosts the Aboriginal Fall Family Gathering. The fall 2016 event was held at John Muir Elementary, and it was the largest yet. Many families, partner groups and people of various First Nations gathered to celebrate and share a meal together. One thing that stands out at these events is the interaction between students of all ages – and the pride they have in sharing their experiences of success together.
The second Aboriginal success event is held in February. This year, along with traditional dancing and singing, there were some amazing displays of work completed by students. At these events, middle school students take leadership roles and help organize the event.
This year’s event honoured 70 Aboriginal role-model students. The role model program now has over 300 students, who help increase awareness and understanding of Aboriginal Ways of Knowing in both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students.
Each school in SD62 has its own way of celebrating Aboriginal successes. A great example was the celebration event held at Spencer Middle school in May 2016, which featured student works, including a canoe, a 5.5 metre (18-foot) Metis sash, a variety of paddle designs and a traditional lunch.
British Columbia’s new curriculum can be seen in action at Sooke Elementary school – where they have a pilot project, that will expand to two, called First Peoples Principals of Learning. In March 2016, students from Grade 5 traveled to the University of Victoria to make presentations about their efforts to incorporate First Principals of Learning into their classrooms.
The First Peoples Principles of Learning uses Indigenous knowledge and worldviews to cultivate leadership and collaboration, as well as critical and creative thinking. In a series of displays, collages and informal conversations, students shared how the Principles of Learning can transform the teaching and learning process.
In June 2016, 92 Aboriginal grads from SD62 started the next part of their journey. Local chiefs, elders and several hundred families came together to celebrate – and things culminated with a traditional ceremony, where grads walked around a ceremonial circle.
Sooke is expected to sign its second Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement in 2017.