Windspeaker, a year-round Outdoor Leadership and Experiential Program, which supported Indigenous learners from grades 7 to 12, is the co-creation of Jeff Willis, www.creativetoolbox.ca and www.firesideadventures.ca , British Columbia, and Gloria Raphael, an Indigenous leader, educator, and advocate for children and youth. Over four years, this program, which developed personal and social skills through outdoor and cultural experiences, grew from fifteen to sixty participants. Participants received a credit towards their high school diploma.
As the incoming principal at Grandview/¿uuqinak’uuh in Vancouver, Gloria Raphael recognized the need to create a school that was visually pleasing, safe and calm where Indigenous students would be comfortable, engaged and able to take responsibility for their learning. She began by purchasing comfortable, leather chairs for the front lobby then clearing rooms and hallways to create appealing spaces for drama, small group learning and social interactions.
She expanded the community garden, an initiative already underway, to make use of the vast green space surrounding the school. A $100,000 donation was used to build a naturalized playground. In collaboration with the students, parents, teachers, support staff, district staff and the business community, Gloria developed the Earth School Concept. The changes produced students who were more engaged in their learning and proud of their school and their projects. Parents became more involved with the school and their children’s education.
Grandview/¿uuqinak’uuh Earth School will provide an environment where children and families can be actively engaged in connecting with the Earth and each other to become self-reliant individuals who understand their responsibilities as global citizens.
At Grandview/¿uuqinak’uuh Earth School students will engage in experiential learning to build their connection with the Earth. School-wide, yearlong Earth themes (water, earth, sky, forest), will allow students to understand the complexity of the Earth and their place within the environment. Students will engage in stewardship of the land through regular work in the school garden. They will complete community service to develop social responsibility and a greater sense of connection to others. Through integration of the prescribed learning outcomes with Earth learning, students will have opportunities to “investigate the relationships linking individuals, societies, and natural surroundings” The Earth School will comprise four elements working together to create a unique learning environment for students: Curriculum, Health and Wellness, Community Engagement and Physical Space.