By Bev Caswell
We have just returned from a visit with one of our newest partner schools, Johnny Therriault School at Aroland First Nation in Treaty 9. The warm welcome from Principal Bill Beaucage set the stage for a great visit with the dedicated and enthusiastic group of educators at the school.
Community Elder Norah Atlookan set us on a good path, opening our two-day collaboration with an Anishinaabe prayer and smudge in response to an offer of tobacco.
We worked together to try out many spatial reasoning activities, first in our PD sessions then in classrooms with the children. One of the highlights of the PD for me, besides working in classrooms with amazing children and teachers, was that Principal Beaucage ensured that Anishinaabemowin teacher Pauline Gagnon and Community Elder Nora Atlookan were included in the math PD. Their presence in the PD provided wonderful examples to highlight the importance of promoting the use of Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe) in mathematics teaching. For example, Pauline taught one of the visual-spatial activities in Anishinaabemowin and we were able to follow all instructions with ease because she incorporated the language as she was modelling the activity – visualizing which pentomino would create an open box when folded, then testing their predictions with polydrons.
Another activity from our book – the paper folding/hole punch visualization activity – spurred Nora to share stories about Pauline’s and her mother, a talented artist who created beautiful designs from the art of birch bark biting. Again, this was a way that the spatial reasoning activities connected us closer to the community and to cultural practices. See the bottom of this post for videos of Nora discussing her mother’s art.
In Steve’s Grade 3/4 class, we co-taught the Magic Keys Pentomino lesson from our book. This time we used a narrative based on Elsa and Olaf from the movie Frozen.
In Tamara’s Grade 1/2 class, Zoe Donoahue (Grade 1 teacher from the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study Lab School) we played the Cookie Sheet Symmetry Game.
In Siru’s Grade 1/2 class, we introduced the quick image challenges of “Can you Draw this?”
At the end of our visit, the educators presented us with two beautiful paintings by Darren Metasawagon, an artist from Aroland First Nation. This gift symbolizes the ongoing partnership between the Johnny Therriault School and the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study.
Nora Atlookan and her mother’s birch bark biting art