It Takes A Community
For First Nations people, education has always been defined as a lifelong learning process. More specifically, it is a process of nurturing First Nations learners in linguistic and culturally appropriate holistic learning environments.
Simply put, education is meant to address the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs of each student. Due to colonialism, it became common practice for schools and teachers to focus exclusively on academics. Teachers planned lessons, gave tests, and marked homework. Students listened, memorized, and parroted back what they had learned. Today, across many First Nations (and non-First Nation) communities, there seems to be a desire to return to a more holistic approach to education. Education is being looked at in a broader and much more inclusive way. After all, if a student’s mental health or emotional well being is suffering, how can they be expected to focus and succeed at school?
If “Education” can be defined as a series of formal and informal experiences that transmit a society’s accumulated moral values, skills, knowledge and attitudes over the course of a lifetime, then one need look no further than Peguis Central School to see this model in action. On April 25 the school held a community wide fashion show with hundreds of people in attendance. “It’s about letting our youth know they are beautiful inside and out,” states Chief Glenn Hudson. “If we build our student’s self-esteem they have a much better chance of success.”
Every student, and even some Council members, had a chance to strut his or her stuff down the catwalk in front of a cheering crowd. There was formal wear, traditional wear, casual wear and even homemade wear by a Grade Eleven Home Ec. Class.
“You can feel the excitement,” enthused Principal, Jean Malcolm. “Every single member of the school staff is contributing in some way…We want our students to know their true value.” Beyond the school community however, the entire Peguis First Nation was invited and, as evidenced by the packed crowd, it seems like most showed up. Displays selling T-shirts and handcrafted jewelry were buzzing, as young people dashed in and out of the dressing room area. But the real show was in the transformed gymnasium. Dozens of smiling students, musical acts, memorable entertainment, it definitely was an event to remember. Similar events to the Peguis Fashion Show are held throughout our First Nations in Manitoba. With this in mind, it is the belief of MFNERC that any school that creates a learning environment inclusive of the social/ emotional aspects of the student, school and surrounding community, helps students and staff develop greater social and emotional competence. This, in turn, helps ensure positive personal and academic outcomes, and benefits the community as a whole. Has your school put this into practice in some way? Please contact Kim Kakegamic, as she would love to visit and report on your success. firstname.lastname@example.org.