Aboriginal Inquiry: Lifting All Learners

An Impact Assessment of the Aboriginal Enhancement Schools Network (AESN)

6.6 An important catalyst for change: The First Peoples Principles of Learning and culturally responsive pedagogies

Of particular interest in the evolution of AESN members’ thinking about Aboriginal learning, was the impact of the publication of the First Peoples Principles of Learning (FNESC, 2012). Many AESN members noted how they became increasingly aware that the use of Aboriginal content, topics and literature, and the involvement of community members but also recognized the need to organize their own learning around the “big ideas” included in the First Peoples Principles of Learning which significantly reframed learning as a culturally inclusive, holistic phenomena. These principles included:

AESN inquiries in the later years began to reflect this understanding of the interconnected, holistic nature of the First Peoples Principles of Learning. As a result of their application to practice, students developed a deeper understanding of themselves as learners and a clearer idea of what they were learning and why it was important to their learner identities. Aboriginal students were eagerly engaging with culturally relevant materials while educators indicated they were becoming more aware of some of the processes that were leading to greater success – scaffolding learning to meet student needs, making learning relevant to the learner by connecting to the community, and becoming more engaged themselves as members of the learning community. This provides more evidence of a shifting mind set.

For example, at Glenview Elementary in Prince George students began visiting the Shelley Reserve, to learn about Aboriginal ways of preserving the land. Students learned the traditional names and uses of plants, and ways of thanking Mother Earth for her gifts. On Haida Gwaii, students at George M. Dawson went to the Enbridge hearing and presented arguments against the installation of the pipeline, arguing to support Mother Earth. At Sinkut View Elementary School in Nechako Lakes staff and students participated in authentic learning around Mother Earth by participating in fishing camp experiences. At all three of these schools the learning took place outside the classroom walls, led by Aboriginal community members. At Hazelton Secondary School students participated in traditional practices of food gathering and preparation. These examples show how teachers were becoming more adept at addressing the First Peoples Principles of Learning and integrating them as core practices to enrich the learning of all their students.