Having Fun in Tataskwyak
It’s Family Literacy Day!
It is not often that someone from the city hears an announcement over a school’s PA system that a bear has been sighted near school grounds and all children must come inside.
That is, however, exactly what this urbanite experienced on a visit to Tataskwyak Cree Nation. Thankfully on this particular morning, classes were already underway and all students were safe and accounted for.
It was perhaps a fitting welcome to the community. Tataskwyak means “the place of tall trees” and is a remote northern area rich in natural beauty and traditional pursuits. And on May 16, 2016, four MFNERC staff travelled there to host a Family Literacy Day at Chief Sam Cook Mahmuwee Education Centre.
It is common knowledge that early literacy development is hugely important. It is the basis for future learning and sets the tone for how children feel about themselves as readers and writers. In order to promote literacy at all levels, MFNERC has created a Family Literacy Program. Researched and developed by Holly Fontaine, Instructional Resource Facilitator, the program is brought to communities at their request. “I developed the program because I saw a need for it in the communities,” states Fontaine. “A lot of libraries offer this type of programming, but because many First Nations don’t have libraries, I thought, if the community wants it, we could bring it to them.”
On this particular day, after being greeted by the roaming maskwa, Fontaine, Audrey Fourre, Barb Dollmont and I (Kim Kakegamic) started preparing the school’s gym to receive over 100 K-5 students for games, crafts and activities with a focus on literacy.
“It’s actually unusual for us to run the program during the school day,” explains Fontaine. “Usually it’s during an evening or on the weekend so more community members can be involved.” However, she goes on to elaborate that it is up to the community to decide how they want the program delivered. “If they want it at the school during the day or at the community centre at night, then that’s what we’ll do.” It’s yet another way that MFNERC seeks to achieve its mission of having First Nations involvement at all levels of program development and delivery.
The Family Literacy program features 10 stations that participants rotate through. A few of them focus on physical activity, others arts and crafts, as well as First Nations culture, but each has a reading component that seeks to strengthen literacy skills. For example, at the Go Fish station, students “fish” with a small pole and magnet. After they make a catch, they must read what’s on the back of the fish and perform that task (e.g. do 5 jumping jacks). At another, the Moss Bag Baby station, students learn about the history of the tikinagan and get to make their own. The Family Tree allows students to paint their own tree and write the names of their family members, and an obstacle course directs students to “Run,” “Crawl,” and “Jump” over and through obstacles.
Throughout the day the excitement is palpable as the gyms rings with shouting and laughter. It definitely creates an atmosphere of organized chaos. But with some volunteer help from high school students, and a fun photo booth to visit at the end of all the stations, the young students’ energy was contagious for all involved.
If you would like more information on the Family Literacy Day program or to find out how it can be brought to your community, please contact Holly Fontaine at firstname.lastname@example.org, 204-594-1290 ext. 2174