Sunday 15 February 2015

The Blanket Exercise

The Blanket Exercise is a visual and interactive way to help students understand the devastating impact of colonization on Canada's Indigenous population. Students begin in a circle with numerous blankets spread out in front of them. The blankets represent Turtle Island (the land mass of North America).

The students themselves play the role of the Indigenous people throughout the activity. They begin by spreading themselves out over the blankets, representing the Aboriginal population before European contact.

Students are then taken on an interactive journey through history. This journey includes various events that profoundly impacted Canada's Aboriginal population including the introduction of disease, the Indian Act and residential schools. By the end of the lesson, students have a powerful visual understanding of the reduction of land and rights for Aboriginal people in our country. 

The exercise is followed up with a class sharing circle where each student has a chance to express what they have learned from the experience. Many students describe how the activity was much more powerful than learning about these events "from a textbook". The Blanket Exercise involves movement, continual student participation and strong visual elements which make it engaging and memorable.  In SD 67 the Blanket Exercise has now been shared with numerous classes by our district Aboriginal Education team who lead the class through the role playing exercise. The examples here are from Christy Bevington's grade 10 social studies class but there is also a shorter version of the activity available for younger students.