Barbara A. Giroux Transcript

The project was multifaceted. The first part was being part of the First Nation Child and Family Caring Society’s Reconciliation Ambearrister program. This is our class Ambearrister, his name is Makoons which means Little Bear or Bear Cub in Anishinaabemowin and he came to us at the beginning of the year and we named him Puzzles.

Our job was to teach Makoons about his Algonquin culture because he didn’t know anything about it and since we are on unceded and unsurrendered Algonquin territory, it was our job to teach him after we had learned about his history and culture. So, that was our year-long project under the guidance of our of the caring society and we were also responsible for updating them on a monthly basis of our progress. We were to connect with an Elder from the territory and spend as much time as she was able to give to us and we connected with two Elders over the course of the school year.

The project then morphed into a deeper project out of a conversation that we had had in class every year I read a specific book called, I Have the Right to be a Child and it’s written by Alain Serres and in it, he profiles 16 of the United Nations Rights of the child. We read the book, we did a retelling, each of the children retold one of the rights in their own words and illustrated that right of the child. Then when we were talking about each of the rights, I had mentioned some facts in Canadian history when they these rights were not always upheld.

One of the students thought that this was quite disturbing and thought that we needed to tell the whole world about this and the other children in the class thought that this would be a little bit too daunting for these grade ones and so we decided then that maybe we could limit it to a school-wide scenario. So, our grade one “Do All Children in Canada Have the Same Human Rights? Survey Project” was born.

We tackled things like clean water, a housing crisis in Nunavut, and Grassy Narrows and we would invite all other students from the school to read our postings and then vote on — do you think all children in Canada have the same human rights? And they could vote ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘I don’t know’. We would tally the votes and see which ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘not sure’ received the most votes, by how much and we would keep track through the course of the project. It was integrated in language, in math and in science, in the arts. I would go into the classes, do other classes especially around the first National Truth and Reconciliation Day and I would read the Spirit Bear books and teach them about Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce who tried to let the world know about what was happening in residential schools. So, other students became more aware when we did our human rights project. You could see classes come down to look at the project, you could see them talking amongst themselves or they would stop me and ask me more questions.

So, there was engagement throughout the school and my kids became leaders and it always surprised me how they could understand deeply complex issues if you could present it in a way to which they could connect, and stories are very important for that and I just want them to see themselves and see their stories because that’s what’s important is the stories of our lives.