MFNERC Student Wins Bronze Medal at Canada-Wide Science Fair!

On behalf of the Resource Centre and MFNSS, we congratulate Dexter Mentuck from the Donald Ahmo School in Crane River for his outstanding achievements at the Canada-Wide Science Fair. Dexter’s innovative project, “The Hydrating Power of Bear Grease Bath Bombs,” earned him two prestigious awards: a Bronze Medal in the Junior Category and the First Nations University of Canada Award.

Dextor says he was excited and nervous to be a part of the event. “It took me about a week to finish this project, and it required a lot of testing, especially on the bath bombs.”

Dexter’s project explored the hydrating properties of bear grease when incorporated into bath bombs, highlighting an innovative approach to natural skincare. This impressive research demonstrated scientific rigour and showcased Dexter’s commitment to utilizing traditional knowledge in modern applications. His success at the Canada-Wide Science Fair is a testament to his creativity, hard work, and dedication.

Congratulations, Dexter! Your hard work, dedication, and innovative spirit are truly inspiring. Keep shining and making a difference, Dexter—the future is yours to shape!

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Congratulation to all the LTF Winners

First Place: Sidney Harper

Second Place: Marley Leveque

Third Place: Sophia Hayden

Honourable Mentions

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Rosalie Tsannie-Burseth provided the keynote and spoke at other sessions at the Circle of Knowledge and Practices (CKP) Conference in October 2023. She shared valuable information for First Nations staff and students to reflect on as they continue the school year through the winter months. As many will remember, newly elected Premier Wab Kinew attended the first morning of the CKP Conference, which thrilled Tsannie-Burseth who was able to speak with him. She says this election was history being made and looks forward to similar historic events when Indigenous languages are incorporated into the curriculum to produce fluent speakers. Premier Kinew later said, “In my first days as the new Premier of Manitoba, I had the great honour of joining members of the community and strong Indigenous leaders at the Circle of Knowledge Conference. Sitting at the drum and singing with our community was a powerful reminder of what we have accomplished together for our province. This is a new day in Manitoba, where everyone, including Indigenous people, are included.”

Advancing Education through Local Knowledge

Tsannie-Burseth summarized her talk as, “Looking into the past to build Indigenous Education based on local linguistic, Indigenous Knowledge and cultural heritage.” Her information blended perfectly into the theme of this year’s CKP, which was First Nations Ways of Knowing, Being, and Doing. She focused her talk on First Nations languages, Traditional Knowledge and Elders in education, and First Nations ways of teaching, such as land-based learning. Tsannie-Burseth comes by her information through spending 36 years as a teacher, principal, and director of education. She is a Dene speaker and member of Hatchet Lake Dënesųlįnë First Nation. As a residential school survivor, she is a role model for overcoming challenges and advancing in education and her career. She has a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Regina. Tsannie-Burseth is currently working on her PhD at the University of Saskatchewan, studying Dënesųlįnë history, language, and culture. The keynote speaker has strong ideas for advancing First Nations education, but she started by saying why Indigenous peoples need to see such change. Indigenous peoples face socioeconomic inequality compared to non-Indigenous Canadians and are marginalized due to the impacts of colonialism. Colonialism included the forced removal from lands and communities and the residential school system with its mandatory assimilation and adoption of foreign knowledge. The result is high unemployment, poverty, and over-representation in prisons among Indigenous populations, among other discrepancies and hardships.

First Nations Languages Have Top Priority

Tsannie-Burseth says First Nations languages need to be put first and made official. She says that leadership at all levels needs to be involved. The money per student for language learning needs to be increased—the Canadian government did the damage, and it needs to come up with the funds to rectify the loss of languages. The keynote speaker has researched language learning across the world and shared examples of successful language programs from within and outside of Canada. She recommends immersion or bi-lingual programming and says schools have to move away from 45-minute language classes each day. Each First Nation will make its own decisions regarding language programming. An Immersion program is ideal, with students learning in the First Nations language from preschool to Grade 3 or 4. Then a bi-lingual program for the higher grades involving half First Nations language and half English. Models the speaker mentioned include Deh Gáh Elementary and Secondary School in the Northwest Territories, which benefits from its immersion Kindergarten to Grade 3 option that then transitions to a double-streamed program. deh-gah-elementary/

A positive development Tsannie-Burseth mentions is the use of language apps and games to facilitate language learning. She says to normalize First Nations language speaking in First Nations by encouraging its use in business, local leadership, and mass media.

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Mathematics is a language of numbers that can describe almost everything in the physical world. Increasing the skills of First Nations students within this dialect of figures and equations is important so they have this valuable tool to build a good life. That means training teachers in how this complex language can be made more relatable to students. Recently, the Resource Centre held a Mathematics Roundtable where teachers were taught mathematical principles using First Nations technology, like the tipi and the star blanket.

Chun Ong is a Numeracy and Assessment facilitator with the Resource Centre and says math is a part of everyone’s life. “Math is always a part and parcel, through numeracy, of any culture or group, and it has been a part of Indigenous peoples lives from time immemorial through hunting, fishing, gathering of food, and interaction with the environment. Numbers, patterns and relation, shape and space, and statistics and probability are mathematical concepts and skills that were always used and applied in daily life.”

Ong says the best way to teach math is by relating basic concepts to relatable events, processes, and things in a student’s experience. By doing this, it is possible for a teacher to create building blocks of concepts and skills that can become the foundation of future learning.

“All math concepts and skills are better understood by students when they can relate to things and happenings in their environment—things they have encountered or experienced. For example, the order of operations (BEDMAS) is the opposite of solving equations (algebra). For example, you put on your winter jacket and boots last, just before you leave the house, which is like the order of operations. However, you take off the jacket or boots first when you come home after work. Order of operations (BEDMAS) is doing or moving forward, and solving equations (algebra) is undoing or reversing,” Ong says.

Ong uses the tipi and star blanket to teach basic mathematical principles integral to their creation. Using these tools is important, not only for their relevancy to First Nations students, but also to teach cultural concepts and values to educators who may not be Indigenous. He says the shapes, space, and patterns of the cultural items or objects—including the tipi, star blanket, and drums—are a good starting point for teaching and learning mathematical topics, concepts, and skills in a culturally responsive manner. Relating and applying math to everyday life is the essence of numeracy.

The tipi could be used to teach the basic geometry of 2D shapes and 3D space. For example, by using the equation, πrl, you can derive the curved surface area of a tipi, using the convex, polygonal shapes that form the covering of a tipi, which creates a cone, and thus a circular base, when more poles are added to make the tipi strong. On the other hand, the construction of the star blanket, from a 2D shape to a completed 3D space object, involves almost all the math concepts and skills in geometry. It involves the basic unit of diamonds, forming eight bigger diamonds to complete the eight-point[1]ed star in the centre of the blanket. If you fill in the bigger diamond with the numbers in a certain manner, you will create what is called by mathematicians, the ‘Chinese or Pascal triangle.’”

Ong says Resource Centre events like the Mathematics Roundtable are important to ensure educators are relating lessons to First Nations students in a way that produces positive results, instilling in them the joy of teaching and learning mathematics. “Teacher capacity building and mentoring in Indigenous culture is very important for reclaiming what has been lost through colonization as well as for student and teacher engagement. It is important that teachers and students create a connection socially, academically, and intellectually in math, ELA, science, and social studies, to increase student attendance and academic performance in a cross-curricular manner. These culturally responsive specific lessons and activities also build pride and learning of First Nations values and teachings.”

Ong says it is all about ensuring that First Nations students absorb what can be a difficult subject, with concepts that are sometimes very precise and difficult to explain. Providing teachers with culturally specific ways of teaching helps with this process and creates a better experience for the learners. “In my experience, students always feel proud and are often awed by the many math concepts and skills that they can relate to and understand easily. The tipi, star blanket, and drum, to name a few, are culturally responsive math tools that are very engaging socially, academically, and intellectually. Math, numeracy in action, is no longer the domain of the academics and mathematicians, but it can be a part of everyone’s life.”

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The symposium will take place February 21-22, 2024 at Canad Inns Destination Centre Polo Park.

Manitoba Aboriginal Languages Strategy (MALS) was created to promote, revitalize, and support Aboriginal Languages throughout Manitoba. Ancestral knowledge, as carried in our languages, songs, stories, community histories, and other key practices and customs, connect and bridge generations. The languages of First Nations, Métis and Inuit teach us about who we are as a people. Language creates a strong connection from the past to the present and helps shape Indigenous identity. We recognize the importance of land and the role that the land plays in connecting to our language and history. We also recognize that learning can take place beyond the walls of a classroom.

We invite an interactive approach to share language and welcome individual workshop sessions that may include, but are not limited to:

  • Aboriginal writing systems
  • Teaching language in the digital age
  • Language apps
  • Teacher apprenticeships & Aboriginal language immersion programming
  • Local initiatives & best practices
  • Grandparents and our languages
  • Teaching Aboriginal languages
  • Community based Aboriginal languages programs
  • Language and the Land
  • Language program models
  • Language Resources
  • Stories, songs, and teachings
  • Sharing research and policy related to Aboriginal languages

We invite Knowledge Keepers, Elders, educators, students and other interested community members to this year’s conference.

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To: MFNERC High School Teachers and their classrooms

Date: Thursday, January 18, 2024

Location: Microsoft Teams

Time: 10:00AM – 11:00AM

We invite you to join us in the excitement surrounding the release of MFNERC’s very own Rachel Beaulieu’s upcoming documentary, “A Cup of Cold Water.” This compelling film explores a significant narrative that echoes through history. It follows the remarkable journey of Alfred Kirkness, an advocate for the final resting places of former residential school students.

Long before this issue made headlines, Alfred Kirkness was an advocate, championing the dignity and respect of the final resting places of former students. His determined efforts, captured in “A Cup of Cold Water,” not only exposed the neglected condition of the cemeteries at the Brandon Residential School site but also ignited a worldwide recognition of this issue, underlining the far-reaching impact of his advocacy.

To Register for the screening, please click on the link below ⬇️

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MET Number is a unique identifier assigned to each student upon registration with Manitoba Education for record-keeping purposes. This number remains the same from kindergarten to Grade 12 and is different from any student number assigned by a local school division.

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Recently, the MFNSS held a Minecraft Design Challenge at the RBC Convention Centre as part of the Esports program.

In teams of 3-4, First Nations students from MFNSS schools designed and built interconnected themed escape rooms that featured problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. The winning team, from the Sargeant Tommy Prince School, constructed a replica of a residential school, complete with signposts and teachings and a graveyard respecting past generations. The winning game held numerous challenges that forced a player to interact with the map and learn about the history while problem-solving to escape to the next room.

During the eSports challenge, students were asked to blend game-like elements into their builds (find the button, pressure plates, red stone contraptions, lava traps, platformers, and more!). It also played on students’ design process, as they needed to play through their builds and test their game elements to ensure they worked, set spawn points so that the player knew the starting and endpoints, and each room needed to increase in difficulty. Furthermore, the creative mode map students were utilizing borrowed the resource/behaviour packs from the Manito Ahbee Aki map, which meant they could search their inventory for things like the 7 Sacred Teachings animals, local wildlife and vegetation, place teepees, NPC’s dressed in traditional clothing, and craft birch bark canoes.

The MNP accounting firm sponsored a lunch for students and chaperones, the MESA (Manitoba Esports Association) sponsored the venue at the RBC Convention Centre through a provincial grant, and Comicon gave all of the students and staff free passes to Comicon. Tourism Winnipeg also attended the event, wanting to highlight the MFNSS event and position Wpg as an Esports destination in Canada.

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We recently held the first Youth Land-based Numeracy Fair, hosted by the MFNERC Numeracy Team and supported by Language and Culture facilitators, at St Vital Park in Winnipeg. The land-based activities aimed to provide a culturally responsive education, connect to numeracy concepts, and develop math skills in a fun learning environment. Over 50 students from a number of First Nations schools took part in some land-based learning as well as lessons relating to language, numeracy, science, and much more. Here are just a few photos from that great day of fun and learning.

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