Ojibwe Language Programming
The Ojibwe language program continues in six Sutton area schools (elementary and secondary) which serve students from the First Nation. The board is also offering Ojibwe language through online processes to maintain connection with students regardless of location. Instruction starts in Kindergarten and is available until Grade 12 for all students in these schools.
The program continues to receive upgraded access to technology and updated online learning tools to assist teachers in delivering the curriculum. The Tuition and Education Service Agreement between the Chippewas of Georgina Island and the York Region District School Board, along with the large population of Ojibwe students in Sutton, supports the offering of Ojibwe language classes. These classes are an important part of reclaiming Indigenous language in the area.
This is an opportune time to rebuild the language program, as years of online learning have impacted language enrollment. Students prefer face-to-face learning, and the board is taking steps to recruit more qualified language teachers to expand the language program and meet the increasing interest of students.
Indigenous Student Study Centres
Sutton District High School and its feeder schools have a significant number of self-identified First Nation, Metis, and Inuit students due to its proximity to The Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation. The First Nation Study Centre at Sutton District High School is a culturally safe space that offers direct support and supervision to students as they transition from high school into post-secondary pathways. The centre has been incredibly successful in improving outcomes for Indigenous students at the school.
The graduation rates of First Nations students at Sutton DHS have improved over the last 10 years. These rates are now aligned with provincial graduation rates. This success is attributed to the First Nation Study Centre and the support of the Transition Coordinator. The student advisor assists students with their studies, helps re-engage those who have left school, and provides a safe space for all students to work outside the classroom. Additionally, the advisor provides culturally appropriate and relevant guidance. Based on this success the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit education team is currently working with other schools to develop similar school-based programming to support students in other parts of the board. We now have centres operating at Keswick High School, Huron Heights Secondary School, Markham District High School and Emily Carr Secondary School.
When students have access to a First Nation Study Centre they have a better sense of well-being and achieve at a better rate than Indigenous students who do not have a centre in their school. The centres create positive, culturally affirming spaces that lead to more students self-identifying as Indigenous. Teachers also make use of the centres and look for support from Indigenous staff.
Professional Learning Community: Wayi Wah!
The First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Education Team collaborated with 12 educators from two schools to explore Indigenous education and pedagogies based on Jo Chrona's book, "Wayi Wah! Indigenous Pedagogies: An Act of Reconciliation and Anti-Racist Education." Alongside consultants from the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Education Team, educators delved into the text to learn how Indigenous knowledge systems can inform their teaching practices and enhance education for all. This program will be expanded to include 10 more schools and aligns with the Indigenous Education and Equity Strategy, which highlights the need to "develop understanding of Indigenous identities, communities and histories through collaborative and self-directed learning." It also aligns with the Director's Action Plan, which aims to "co-construct learning, knowledge and spaces that affirm students' identities and incorporate multiple ways of knowing."
On September 23rd and 24th, the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation held their annual community powwow. To support this community event, YRDSB offered the grounds of Sutton District High School as the location. Staff from across the school board, including custodians, food services, educators, and senior administrators, volunteered to help the community host the event. The powwow was attended by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, and Indigenous families appreciated the warm welcome and sense of community provided by holding the event at the school. The board worked in service of the community organizers who led the planning and ran the event, which was a great example of the board applying its resources in service to Indigenous community.
Grade 11 English: Understanding Contemporary First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Voices (NBE11) course expansion
As of September 2023, all Grade 11 students in the York Region District School Board will take the “Understanding Contemporary First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Voices NBE11” course as their required Grade 11 English credit. This course is offered in all secondary schools and fulfils the compulsory requirement for a Grade 11 English credit for high school graduation (OSSD).
This NBE course aims to expand all students’ understandings of Indigenous themes, literary styles, and cultural insights from the work of many First Nations, Métis, and Inuit authors. It examines their perspectives and influence on life, relationships and issues in contemporary Canada. At the end of the course, students will not only be prepared for the compulsory Grade 12 English course, but they will also have a stronger understanding of the concepts of Indigenous ways of knowing, identity, sovereignty and self-governance, which will prepare them for post-secondary study and the larger work of Truth and Reconciliation in Canadian society.
Consultants from the First Nations, Métis and Inuit education teams and Curriculum Services have developed a course outline, a D2L course, assessment resources, a digital library collection and professional development resources to support teachers in facilitating the course.
Indigenous Education Liaison - Professional Learning
All schools and non-school departments within the YRDSB have a designated Indigenous Education Liaison who supports the implementation of goals related to Indigenous Education and Equity Strategy and shares information with colleagues in their work locations. New Indigenous Education Liaisons were invited to participate in half-day professional development sessions to support their understanding of Indigenous Education. During these sessions, the liaisons learned about anti-colonial approaches that can be used to counter oppressive structures and practices that continue to impact Indigenous students, staff, families and communities in York Region. Together with the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Education Team, the Liaisons explored resources that are available to schools which support these practices. Currently, all liaisons have access to resources, monthly newsletters and support through the Indigenous Education Liaison Google Classroom. Professional learning for returning liaisons and non-school-based Liaisons will occur in the new year.
Community Circles and Restorative Practices
The Caring and Safe Schools Department, in partnership with the First Nations, Metis and Inuit Education Team, is excited to offer training again this year on Community Circles and Restorative Practices, also referred to as Creating Caring, Safe and Inclusive Environments (CCSIE) program. CCSIE was developed in consultation with local Indigenous community partners and replaces other iterations of community circles and restorative practices previously supported by the YRDSB. CCSIE is a classroom-based approach designed to foster positive behaviour and a sense of belonging and is focused on using community-building circles to build classroom community and relationships between students to promote positive behaviour; implementing effective classroom-building activities to support students in creating strong, healthy relationships that build collaboration, self-regulation and conflict-resolution skills in and out of the classroom; and using restorative approaches in repairing relationships when harm has been done.
Learning, Equity, and Inclusivity Symposium Workshop
The First Nations, Metis and Inuit Education Team presented to over 300 educators over two days at the 2023 Learning, Equity and Inclusivity Symposium. In this workshop, participants began to unpack some of the language(s) and practices that continue to perpetuate colonial narratives and misrepresentations of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit in education. Participants were invited to consider how the First Peoples Principles of Learning support education for, with, and from First Nations Metis and Inuit and how they might use these principles in their work within the YRDSB to promote the success and well-being of all students. This learning was aligned with the Indigenous Education and Equity Strategy.
Updated December 2023