Orange Shirt Day is tomorrow – September 30th! While I strongly believe conversations around reconciliation between non-Indigenous and Indigenous peoples need to happen on a daily basis, Orange Shirt Day provides an opportunity for action and awareness. In this post, I’ll be sharing a couple activities we have done this year and how we will be continuing to learn about reconciliation.
Based on the life of Jenny Kay Dupuis’ grandmother, I Am Not a Number is a powerful book that brings to light a part of Canada’s history and its treatment of Indigenous children and families. It’s a text that I have read with students over the past few years that has helped my students understand the impacts of residential schools not only on those who attended but also the impacts over subsequent generations.
Every year, I think about how to use the text in different ways and this year our pre-reading activities were inspired by an educator in London, Graham Shular. For our activity, small groups of 3 or 4 students were given an image from the book that was glued to a piece of chart paper that was sectioned off into 4 parts. Students were asked to write down their answers to one of the following in each of the sections:
- What do you notice?
- What emotions does the image evoke?
- What do you think is happening?
- Why do you think that is happening?
The groups were given 4 minutes to first take a look at the image and then they were given 4 minutes to discuss and jot down their ideas on the chart paper for each question.
I was amazed at how engaged students were in the task, as was another colleague, Alison Fitzsimmons, who also did a similar activity with the students in her class. This activity was a great way for me to see what students already knew about residential schools and it was also helpful in understanding what messages students were getting in the imagery of the book.
Later, as we read, students were given large sticky notes and asked to jot down their wonders, questions and anything of impact as we read. Many were surprised at the treatment of Indigenous children and their families and that it was imposed and sanctioned by the Canadian Government. This prompted many to think about what we can currently do to ensure true reconciliation. While I want students to gain a great sense of empathy, I also want them to understand the resilience of those impacted and the rich history of Indigenous peoples over time.
Tomorrow, we will be starting to look at our Land Acknowledgement. Said every morning during the announcements, students need to understand its significance and the people on whose land we have the privilege of learning. I am looking forward to us digging in to better understand treaties and the diverse communities of Indigenous peoples.
Tomorrow is Orange Shirt Day. Will you be wearing orange? What activities have you done with students? What work might we continue to do to ensure true action around reconciliation? ETFO has incredible resources to get you started. Click here to find them!