For two weeks in February 2016 my grade three class worked on a special project for the staff and students in La Loche. This project came together because of two events that occurred around the same time. We had also been discussing current events in our classroom and the shooting in La Loche came up, along with some questions about the safety practices in our own school. A student wanted to know if what happened in La Loche would increase the number of lock down and secure the building drills that we would be having here. I explained that we practice these drills so that we are prepared in the event of an emergency and that we would continue to practice them as usual. I also received an email from someone that volunteered to go to La Loche right after the shootings. I was impacted by this person's courage and wondered if there was something that we could do to support this community.
We talked about how people cope with tragic and stressful situations and discussed ways that people can come together after a tragedy. I explained that an important factor in healing from a big tragedy or loss is having the support of other people. Although we can not change what happened in La Loche we can choose to respond in a kind, loving, and supportive way.
We began with a list of ideas from various students who offered suggestions about what we could do for the staff and students. This was our list.
#1) WRITING A LETTER
We decided to write letters to the grade three students in La Loche. We had a lot of good discussions about how you can encourage someone with a card or letter when they are going through a difficult time.
Our research on the school also began at this time. We learned that there were 60 students in grade three, so each child wrote three letters.
This led to a discussion about the population of the school and community. It also led to questions about the demographics of La Loche.
The more we learned about this community, the more we learned about First Nations culture. We had an awesome opportunity to learn from a student in our room who shared her knowledge and expertise. This was a HUGE highlight for all of us!
We learned how to do a Jingle Dance and a
After we read about the significance of the circle in the First Nations culture, some of the students suggested that we make a gift that has the shape of a circle. This was a very exciting discussion and led to the idea of making a bracelet for the staff there.
The circle represents important principles in Aboriginal worldview and belief systems, such as interconnectedness, equality, and continuity. According to traditional teaching, the seasonal pattern of life and renewal and the movement of animals and people were continuous, like a circle, which has no beginning and no end.
Circles suggest inclusiveness and the lack of a hierarchy. They are found throughout nature – for instance, in the movement of the seasons and the sun’s movement from east to west during the day.
Circles are also used in the construction of teepees and sweat lodges; and the circular willow hoop, medicine wheel, and dream catcher are powerful symbols.
After this we had an inspirational art session to design what this bracelet might look like. We learned that the people in La Loche were wearing blue ribbons to show solidarity and support. Many of the students included this ribbon in their designs.
We were able to find a company that could create our designs in a very timely manor. It took about ten days from when we submitted the order until the bracelets and lanyards arrived at our school.
Being that it was so close to Valentine's Day our class thought the students in La Loche might like to receive chocolates and candies. We included these with the letters.
How did the students feel about doing this
It was quite a day! I felt incredibly fortunate to be able to go to work and be part of something so rewarding!