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St. Thomas Elementary utilizing technology to teach Indigenous lessons

St. Thomas Elementary staff are using new ways to teach Indigenous lessons and Canadian history.

Due to the pandemic, Junior Elder and Aboriginal Coordinator Cynthia Young isn’t able to teach her lessons to students in Lloydminster Catholic School Division in-person. Instead, Young has made a series of videos and then meets with the children virtually using Google Meet to answer any of their questions.

“We didn’t have to put [the lessons] on pause. We were able to work in a different way with technology to address those issues for those students and still be able to get to so many of our students without being in the classroom.”

The new teaching method falls in line with Saskatchewan’s Education Week theme of Connecting and Learning in New Ways. Young admits she’s not the best with technology, but says the process was fun to learn.

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“My children are a little bit younger and they helped me through it. I do really enjoy the interaction I can get without being in the classroom.”

Oftentimes, the lessons are paired with having students touch and interact with different traditional items in Indigenous culture. Young says students are still engaged with the lessons even without that physical contact and adds some are going a step beyond.

“I had one student send me a picture of the bannock she made. We are getting out there and it isn’t hands on or in-person, but I’m pretty much in-person on the smartboard so I don’t feel like I’m losing any teachings. I’m just losing that personal interaction with the students.”

Principal Lisa Marie Kreese adds the students are still being shown the items on the screen which they will be able to recognize in the future. She says the remote setup also allows Young to show off other cultural items that may not have been covered in the video.

“I was watching a presentation in one grade and a child had asked about feathers. [Young] dug around in her office and found synthetic feathers and real feathers and showed them the difference and what the symbolism was. It was crucial for what they wanted to know right then.”

The new process also allows her to get the teachings out to more students as the videos are available to all staff. Some of the lessons Young touches on include teaching students about animals and ceremonies for younger children and treaty rights, reconciliation and residential schools for the older students.

“All our teachings have lessons and character building. They refer to our character and our knowledge of life and everything in our culture has a teaching and it’s very important to get that out to kids.”

Kreese adds teachers at the school provide supplement lessons and provide more resources to the students following their lessons with Young.

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