Sylvia Smith

Recipient of the 2011 Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching

June 9, 2011
Canada's History speaks to Sylvia Smith about her efforts to bring Indigenous history into - and beyond - the classroom.

Elizabeth Wyn Wood Alternative High School, Ottawa (Ontario)

Project of Heart is an innovative educational tool kit designed to engage students in a deeper exploration of indigenous traditions in Canada and the history of Indian residential schools. It is a journey for understanding through the heart and spirit as well as facts and dates.

Indigenous concepts of education and literacy, such as Grandmother and Grandfather teachings and reading the environment, are fully incorporated into the curriculum. Elders from First Nation, Metis and Inuit communities become regular participants in classroom presentations and discussions. Students lead many of the project outcomes, demonstrating their learning through videos and multimedia presentations and decorating small wooden tiles. Each tile becomes a meaningful artifact, representing one of the thousands of young lives lost due to the effects of the Indian residential schools system.

A key objective of the program is to encourage “ownership” of this historic injustice by enacting gestures of reconciliation for the past and continued oppression of Aboriginal people in Canada. Project of Heart continues to be shared with elementary, secondary, and post-secondary schools in other regions of Canada. It was show-cased at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s first national event, held in Winnipeg in June, 2010.