- Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board (HPEDSB) - http://www.hpedsb.on.ca -

Positive outcomes from Indigenous summer programs

Two indigenous summer programs that support the transition of students from Grade 8 into secondary school ran in August 2021. One was hosted in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, the other was held at the Boundless School in Palmer Rapids.

Tyendinaga

Twelve Grade 8 students from Quinte Mohawk School, registered to attend Eastside Secondary School in Grade 9, participated in the program. The program was organized as a day camp, with students dropped off and picked up at a central location each of day from August 23 to 27. The theme for this program in Kanyen’kéha (Mohawk) was Enskattsiró:tenwhich translates to Rekindling My Fire.

There were two primary Indigenous facilitators, an OCT teacher and an Indigenous Grad Coach. They were joined by different guests who shared information, teachings and/or provided instruction with specific activities. Guests included, Knowledge Keepers, a traditional botanist, and an Indigenous practitioner who worked with the students on wellness goals and strategies.

The days were spent mainly outdoors, with most of the activities being land-based, including hiking, canoeing, picking and making natural medicines, and playing various sports. Everything was grounded in Kanyen’kehà:ka (Mohawk) culture. For example, when the students learned how to make a fire, the teachings around what the fire represents and how the word fire in Kanyen’kéha (Mohawk language) relates to family and self, was very impactful.

The facilitators observed that many of the students were hesitant and apprehensive at first, but they built up their resolve, persevered and grew. There were huge strides made in the development of their self-esteem. The gaining of self-confidence was perceived to be the biggest positive outcome for the students in being prepared to transition into the secondary setting.

 

Boundless School – Palmer Rapids

Eleven self-identified Indigenous students attending Grade 8 at North Hastings High School participated in this program from August 25 to 29. The students and three staff spent five days at The Boundless School, an outdoor education center. Like the group in Tyendinaga, the participants opted to use the same theme, but in Anishnaabemowin, which translates to Maadijse Podaaweishkode – Rekindling My Fire.

Students had the constant support of three caring adults; an Indigenous Social Worker, Indigenous Grad Coach/Support Worker and a Teacher, as well as the Boundless School instructors who facilitated the outdoor activities, that included team building exercises, ropes courses, canoeing, and hiking. Students earned .5 credit in outdoor education from their participation. Cultural teachings centered around well-being were infused throughout the five days, as were strategies for success to prepare students for the transition into secondary school.

During the week, students learned various teachings of the drum and each student was able to make their own personal drum. The learning culminated in a ceremony for the birthing of the drums with students learning a song together.

Students found that, in addition to being a fun way to connect to the land and explore elements of Indigenous culture, the opportunity helped them build friendships and create a sense of community with the other students and adults. The relationships and support network developed during the program assisted students in making a successful transition into Grade 9 that fall.

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