SPARC (Sport Physical Activity, Recreation, and Community) launched this week here in Winnipeg, where 15 participants made up the first MFNERC Physical Education Cohort (in partnership with the University of Manitoba Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management). The students are educational assistants and teachers from communities such as Cross Lake, Split Lake, and Garden Hill. They all came together to spend the week at Camp Manitou to learn hands-on traditional games and teachings while earning university course credits.
“The reason why we used the acronym SPARC is to ignite within people the interest to provide quality physical activity for the young people in the communities, especially those in the Manitoba First Nations School System. SPARC is akin to pawâtamowin which means ‘something that we dream of.’ It means that we can acquire a wellness within ourselves so we can look after our bodies,” says Norbert Mercredi, Physical Education & Health Program Facilitator at MFNERC. “This was an idea I had because I see other cohorts being done with other programs, and because physical education was just starting (it was my first year), I thought, ‘Why can’t we have a cohort?’ So, I managed to meet with Joannie Halas, a professor of kinesiology at University of Manitoba, and we talked about what we can do to increase training that’s available for our communities in regards to people that are teaching physical education.”
The participants were already growing clo
se and connected as a group. The impact the program was having on the group as a whole was obvious upon interviewing some of them.
“This is an experience I wouldn’t have had in a regular university classroom,”says Lisa Ewen. “It’s all traditional knowledge we can relate to because it comes from our own communities.” Lisa is a physical education teacher in Opaskwayak Cree Nation aspiring to start her master’s degree upon completion of this program. She lit up talking about her experience in the land-based learning group: “Having the instructors actually stay with us, and us being able to develop the relationships we have, has us opening up more to one another and creating a great learning space together … Now I’m going to take this knowledge back and apply it to my own students.”
The participants were all having a good time playing shimmy outside, walking in snowshoes, and playing a game called snow snakes. Everyone was having a great time learning traditional games and activities together. Norbert Mercredi summed up his work here the best: “We all have a dream to improve our communities, and one way is through our health.”