Wednesday 2 December 2015

Indigenous Perspectives: Where To Begin?

Educators in British Columbia are recognizing that Indigenous perspectives are an integral part of the new curriculum. While teachers are excited by these changes, many also harbour some anxiety. How will they weave Indigenous perspectives throughout their lessons, instead of treating them as an "add-on"? How should non-Aboriginal educators respectfully and appropriately incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing into their practice? Students in classrooms that reflect First Peoples principles describe their learning as relevant, active, and engaging. They become more open to diverse perspectives, develop the ability to creatively solve problems, and enjoy a supportive community with their classmates. Students learn to see the connections between their education and the world around them; they recognize that the world around them is their education!

No matter what the subject area or grade level, incorporating Indigenous ways of knowing and learning allows students to connect more deeply with their educational experience. Here are three recommended starting points for educators who would like to increase their understanding of these perspectives:

1. The First Peoples Principles of Learning
Described as one of the founding documents of the new B.C. curriculum, the First Peoples Principles of Learning (FPPL) were created through a joint partnership between the Ministry of Education and the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC). The FPPL are a set of learning principles based on general Indigenous educational perspectives and are a wonderful framework to guide any educator hoping to learn more about First Peoples ways of knowing.

A key companion piece to the FPPL is Jo-Anne Chrona’s website which goes into each principle in more depth, provides context for what each might look like within a classroom setting, and includes links to the new BC curriculum and competencies.  This comprehensive resource also provides connections with non-Aboriginal educational theory and includes tips for using authentic resources and avoiding appropriation.

2. Your school district Aboriginal Education Team: While districts vary in the structure and size of their Aboriginal education programs, members of your district’s educational team will be able to recommend resources, connect you with members of your local community, and
guide you in ways to implement Aboriginal perspectives into your practice.

3. FNESC (First Nations Education Steering Committee)
The FNESC website has a wealth of resources. The “First Peoples Classroom” tab provides links to authentic resources as well as recommendations for multiple grade levels and subject areas. FNESC also offers a variety of workshops and conferences around the province.

It’s an exciting time for education in B.C. and a highlight is the Indigenous perspectives now embedded throughout the K-12 curriculum. While there will obviously be challenges that accompany any type of significant change, these new elements will provide our children with an educational experience that accurately reflects our dynamic and diverse 21st century society.

Additional Resources:

Aboriginal Perspectives and Worldviews in the Classroom: Moving Forward (Ministry of Education)