once upon a time…

(if you want to skim/skip the story and get into the meat and potatoes of why I wrote a tale about the history of colonization in Canada, scroll down)

Once upon a time, there was a group of noble and peaceful people living in a vast and varied land. These people lived alone on their land for thousands of years. They were very attuned to the world around them, and they used this respect for the natural world to harness the properties of the plants and animals that lived in their land. The smallest plant could be used as a magnificent medicine. The animals that roamed the land could be used to provide shelter, clothing, tools, and food. Each time a plant or animal was killed or taken from the earth, the people made sure to say a prayer of gratitude thanking the earth for providing them with sustenance. The people traveled their land, learning to live in harsh climates and conquering the many challenges that faced them. In order to keep their way of life alive, they told intricately-woven stories to their youth, so that they could, one day, be the story keepers that would pass their tales on to those that came after them. The people continued to live on in peace and harmony in their untouched and undiscovered land.

 

Until, one day, newcomers arrived from across the fathomless seas. The people were surprised to see them; they had become so accustomed to living in their land alone. The newcomers looked, sounded, and acted different. They were fragile and could not withstand the harsh elements that the first peoples had always known. They did not know how to survive in the land that the first peoples called home. So the first peoples reached out to help the newcomers and show them their way of life. They taught the newcomers to create shelters so they would be warm. They showed the newcomers how to hunt and fish so they would be fed. They taught the newcomers what plants were helpful or harmful so they would be safe. Slowly, the newcomers learned to live in this new land.

 

The newcomers, while strange and other, did have their own special skills to contribute. They had learned to craft materials out of metal and fabric that were beyond what the first peoples could create. The newcomers shared their inventions with the first peoples in return, giving them pots and pans, metal arrowheads, guns, and blankets. Unfortunately, these gifts came at a very high price.

 

The first peoples were not aware, but the blankets the newcomers had shared, while warm and comforting, shared something else: something sinister and deadly. A sickness, brought over from across the seas by the newcomers, was hiding within the blankets. As the first peoples slept tightly bundled in the blankets, the sickness crept into their flesh and bones and began to work its dark magic. The first peoples, though strong and accustomed to their severe weather, had never experienced this sickness before, and they soon began to fall ill in the thousands. The first peoples, desperate to save their sick family members, tried every herbal remedy they had come to know, but nothing worked. One by one, the first peoples fell, their death toll rising into the thousands. The dark sickness continued to creep across the land, laying its icy hands on children, elders, or the weak and ill.

 

While the blankets brought the nightmare of disease, the guns, too, spelled disaster for the first peoples. With this advanced technology, animals could be killed with swiftness and ease. Gone were the days of taking only what was necessary to survive; beasts were killed without care, carcasses piling up. As more of the animals in the land were hunted down, the first peoples’ main food source depleted, leaving them hungry and dying off from disease. A once mighty and proud people were left weak and frightened in their homeland.

 

The newcomers, now quite accustomed to living in this new land, were eager to explore and claim the land as their own, building houses and farms wherever they roamed. As the newcomers gained strength and numbers, the first peoples realized they needed to make a deal if they were to survive.

 

The leaders of the newcomers and the first peoples gathered together in a sacred place to talk. Although some of them had learned the words of the other’s language, they still struggled to understand each other as they discussed. The first peoples, strong believers in cooperation and peace, thought that the agreements they reached with the newcomers would be honored and kept as sacred promises. The newcomers, thirsty to own and tame more of the vast land, did not have the same understanding. They did not see the promises as sacred, and had no value in keeping these promises with the first peoples. They were blinded by greed to have more, more, always more.

 

Years passed, and while the newcomers thrived and continued to claim the new land as their own, the first peoples continued to struggle in the place that had belonged to them for millennia. The newcomers wanted to teach the first peoples their ways of life; they wanted the first peoples to be more like them. To accomplish this goal, they sent the first peoples’ children away from their families to go to school. Many of these schools were places of fright and suffering for the first people’s children. They were not allowed to speak their own tongues, wear their own clothes, pray to their own gods. Some were beaten or abused if they did not follow the strict rules asked of them.

 

Little by little, the vibrant culture of the first peoples began to fade. Being apart from their families and their language, the children forgot their way of life. If they returned home, they were strangers to those they had once loved. Many lived inside constant nightmares from the horrors they had faced in the schools. When the children grew up into adults, they were broken and did not know how to lead good lives, having never led good childhoods. When they had children of their own, they did not know how to be parents, and so their children, too, suffered. Some tortured souls turned to drink or drugs, seeking some refuge from the pain and suffering, if only for a moment.

 

Meanwhile, the newcomers had made themselves quite at home, in a land that was not theirs. They began to take over government and control the land. The first peoples were too weak and sparse to disagree. The newcomers decided to banish the first peoples to their own isolated pieces of land. Many cruel rules were inflicted upon the first peoples. Practicing their own customs or beliefs would land them in jail. Leaving their isolated pieces of land, even to attend a family member’s funeral, was a criminal offense. If first peoples decided to attend a university, they would lose their identity as part of the first peoples. If women of the first peoples married a newcomer, they lost their identity as a first people. The first peoples, full of despair, prayed for a miracle.

 

After a long period of darkness and depression, a spark of light began to grow within the hearts of the first peoples. Though they had been hurt and oppressed, they longed for justice and a return to the peaceful ways of the ancestors. They began to speak out about the horrors they had faced. The first peoples were taking back the power of the stories they had used long ago to share their lives with one another. More and more first peoples began to share the tales of the injustices they had faced and slowly, the spark grew. It was even capable of jumping into the hearts of caring newcomers who realized the evil of what had been done in the past.

 

A new age is on the horizon. First peoples and newcomers together, passionate about righting the wrongs of the past, fight to restore the peace and harmony that was once common in this land. They strive to keep the promises that were made by their ancestors many moons ago and find forgiveness for what has been done. This does not mean that all is well; there are still many battles to be fought and many newcomers who do not support the spark. There is a long journey ahead and the ending of the tale is not yet written. What part will you play in writing it?

 

 

THE CONTEXT 

I was inspired to write this “fairy tale” after a troubling discussion in my Grade 6 Social Studies class today. Over the course of the year, the students have often griped and groaned whenever we have to learn about First Nations, Metis, and Inuit people and their culture. This has never sat well with me.

The students’ main complaints are:

  1. “We learned this already.” They have learnt the same things about FNMI people many years in a row and they are bored of it. (understandable)
  2. “Why do we have to learn about them? We want to learn about our own people.” While I absolutely understand the craving to delve into our own ancestors’ culture (which students will have an in-depth opportunity to do at the end of the year during our Culture Fair), I find it deeply unsettling that students in our school system, though well versed in traditional FN culture and residential schools, still do not grasp the importance of learning about the first people who lived in this land.

When I entered the classroom today, ready to start our new unit on Global Interdependence, all plans were thrown out the window. Students, inquiring on what the new unit would be about were asking, “Is it about First Nations people again?” (inner cringe). One student piped up, “Why don’t we call them Indians anymore?” and the teacher within me was rip-raring to go. Cue a crudely hand-drawn world map, and I told a summarized version of how early European explorers, mistakenly, called First Nations people “Indians,” thinking they had landed in India.

This began to spark many other questions among students, such as “Why do First Nations people get so many extra perks that we don’t?” (namely, “not paying taxes,” “hunting whenever they want and as much as they want,” “getting scholarships or getting accepted into university over others,” and “getting monthly cheques from the government” – those are, indeed, loose quotations of what the students believe or have been led to believe). The social justice warrior within me had to calmly continue taking questions and jotting them down on the board to discuss, while making quick and curt explanations to shut down insensitive questions such as, “Why do they go (insert offensive war cry here)?” [yes, that really happened, and it caught on to half of the class]. I have to say, I am rather proud that I didn’t start preaching halfway through and was able to stay composed. What did become clear to me, however, was how deeply these misconceptions are rooted in the students’ home lives, with many comments beginning with, “My mom/dad told me __________.” How can I blame students for having these grossly misunderstood ideations when they are being reinforced (and introduced) in their home lives?

From some graciously thoughtful students (bless their souls), I was able to coax out some ideas about why these “privileges” (can anyone smell the irony here?) might exist for First Nations people? Surely, the government didn’t randomly decide to bestow all of these perks upon them for no reason? Two students were able to come up with the opinion that these things were a way of making up for the wrongs that had been done against First Nations people in the past (**inner cheering that I have reached someone**).

After we had run through most of the questions and comments, I left the students with the knowledge that I’d find some information regarding their queries and we would reconvene next class (hence, the story). I hope that we can follow this tale with a discussion that shifts the focus from, “It’s not fair FN people have things we don’t,” to focus more on what we have/had they they do not.

  • What privileges do the newcomers (European settlers) have that First Nations people do not?
  • What problems exist regarding how the newcomers entered the new land? What could have been done differently?
  • Why do you think the newcomers did what they did?
  • How would the story of your ancestors be different if the First Nations were not welcoming and helpful when the settlers arrived?
  • What is the moral or lesson of this story? What can we do, today, to continue to heal the wounds of the past?

 

Clearly, this is a topic of passion for me. If you share my passion, or have an opinion on this important, reconciliACTION work, please share with me in the comments below. Feel free to share my “Once Upon a Time…” cautionary fairy tale with your class/other teachers if it can be of use to you – see PDF file here –>  (Once Upon a Time…)

 

Until next time,

-KKF

 

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new beginnings

Hello, blogging world! In the past 8 months, I have been grossly absent from this little slice of the internet, but I am happy to announce that, with the new school year (my FIRST as a teacher!) approaching, I am setting a goal to get back into it with gusto! Ideally, I would like to post once a week about my journey, but I also want to be realistic and give my first-year-teacher self a bit of leeway, so I am hoping to post every 2 weeks (or twice a month). Who knows, maybe I will pleasantly surprise myself and use blogging as a welcome break from planning – haha.

Just a little refresher and catch-up on my life…

I moved to Hudson Bay and into my adorable little house this past Sunday (July 31). I am absolutely LOVING it! I feel right at home here; having grown up in a small town, it feels familiar and comforting. I know that small town teaching is definitely my niche.

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Home sweet home 🙂

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I’ve been spending a lot of time in this room – the couch and chairs make a great spot to sit and plan.

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My little slice of home – all my friends and family.

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Of course, as soon as I got keys to the school, I was in my classroom and rearranging furniture (thank goodness most of it is on wheels!). I loved how the previous teacher had the room set up (everything in there is so ECE friendly, calming, and beautiful), but I decided to change it up completely to give the room a fresh feel and to put my own spin on it. That definitely helped to make the room feel like mine, and hopefully it will signal a fresh start to students as well!

I decided to have areas in the room that served a specific purpose. I have a quiet/calming/comfy area for students to curl up in if they need a break from the hustle and bustle of the other things going on (it’s complete with a leather sofa and recliner – both miniature, of course!). Then I have a block/construction area and a house (complete with baby dolls, another child-sized couch, and a kitchen and table) area. I have a numeracy/literacy centre where targeted letter/number/fine motor work will be set up. My story corner/morning meeting area is carpeted and features a “VIP/Leader” leather chair, the SMART board, and a book display/shelf. There are 2 large tables in the open space of the classroom for eating snack/doing activities. At the back of my room, I have an art and exploration theme going on – there is a shelf with art supplies and a two-sided easel, as well as the sand and water tables. Finally, near my desk in the back corner is a natural items/small parts/FNMI area (pictured below).

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See the circular basket divided into four quadrants?  I am going to use that as a Medicine Wheel!

 

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This is the visual schedule that is displayed at the morning meeting area. I made it myself – can you tell I’m pretty proud?

Once I have everything set up and picture perfect, I will post pictures of all of the areas of my classroom. I can’t wait to share it with everyone!

For now, I am spending most of my days planning and prepping. I made an interactive SMART notebook file at the school today, which students will use to check in each morning for ‘attendance.’ Can’t wait to share more of my adventure with everyone!

Stay tuned!

-KKF

P.S. Did I mention I went on a two-week cruise/land tour to ALASKA with my lovely mom?! We were celebrating being finished our respective educational endeavours – me my degree, and my mom the Educational Assistant course through Sask Polytech. Here are just a couple of the 1000 snapshots I took! It was an awesome getaway and bonding experience that we both adored!

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Our first port of call – Ketchikan, AK

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Checking out historic totem poles

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Whale watching in Juneau – highlight of the trip!

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Dog sledding in Skagway

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Hanging out with some sled dogs 🙂

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I just think this photo is about the cutest thing ever. Sled dog puppies ❤

medicine wheel patterns = huge hit

Updates: I just finished my 8th week with the students. I currently teach from the beginning of the morning until recess (9-10:20), put out invitations for centre time (11:10-11:40), cover Book Look/Word of the Day and Math (12:45-1:45 ish) and do end of the day/library routines (2:45-3:30). Next week, I pick up Phys Ed (1:45-2:30) and the week after, I start my 3 week block of full time teaching.

Here are some of the highlights from my week:

Treaty Ed = loving it!

My Treaty Ed infused lessons have been my absolute favourite so far in my internship (which makes me even more excited to attend the Treaty Ed Camp in Regina on November 7th – check out the event and register here). Both of my lessons (on Promises and the Medicine Wheel) turned out to be not only my best lessons content-wise but the students also loved them! This week, we learned about the Medicine Wheel and its four quadrants. We then placed the four elements, four seasons, and four stages of life into the correct quadrant. Then we made a Medicine Wheel with our bodies (and some coloured sweaters) and stood up/sat down as our quadrant’s season, colour, stage of life, or element was said. This lesson was so cool and the students were so engaged and into it – they really soaked up the Medicine Wheel quadrants and teachings!

We learned that the four quadrants can stand for the four seasons, the four elements, and the four stages of life (among other things!).

We learned that the four quadrants can stand for the four seasons, the four elements, and the four stages of life (among other things!).

We made a Medicine Wheel with our classmates! When I called one quadrant's colour, season, element, or stage of life, they stood up! This made a pattern.

We made a Medicine Wheel with our classmates! When I called one quadrant’s colour, season, element, or stage of life, they stood up! This made a pattern.

Phys Ed = such a struggle for me

Next week, I pick up Phys Ed full time and, if I am being completely honest, this is definitely a worry for me. I find Phys Ed to be the hardest subject area to manage (and unlike the older grades, we have it slotted in every single day – which is great for this age group but difficult for me). I know lots of teachers just see Phys Ed as ‘filler’ time and they don’t really look at the curriculum, but this is a goal of mine. I will be doing the manipulative skills unit on sending and receiving, and am excited, but nervous. I think this will definitely be a growth area for my 3 week block and I hope to have my cooperating teacher in during this time to observe me and offer tips for success. The redeeming thing about Phys Ed, however, is that the kids love this time of the day no matter what we do, so at least they will be excited and engaged (sometimes they are just a little bit TOO excited).

EYE testing = time off of teaching

I have finished up the daunting task of EYE tests this week – hooray! The scores are ready to input. Doing this testing gave me some time off of teaching the whole class and to spend one-on-one time with students. However, I found that it definitely made my day feel longer. I really do love being in the classroom with the whole group dynamic of a classroom. I understand that one-on-one testing is part of a teacher’s job description, but I wouldn’t say that it is my favourite. It seems so much more drawn out and stilted than the fast pace of classroom goings-on.

Disruptive students = I want to help, but don’t know what to do

Last week, I was feeling strong and on top of the world, teaching wise. This week felt like much more of a struggle. I think it is partially because I am picking up classes and noticing how much harder it is to handle the students for an entire day, rather than one hour. Also, I hope that this is because my pedagogy has improved and I am, thus, harder on myself and more critical/expect more.

I am feeling especially frustrated at the end of the day with one group of students, as one in particular ends up sitting apart from the class during some portions of the day since he cannot participate in group instruction at the Story Corner without disrupting the learning of others. I discussed this with my coop teacher, and she reassured me that this is an acceptable action for this student (she does this herself), as he is not learning when he is disruptive, and neither are his classmates around him, so it is just better to remove him from the group. However, this really goes against my teaching philosophy and I feel that I should be doing more to help this student be successful during group instructional time. I am additionally frustrated for my students who are doing what is asked and are wanting and ready to learn but can’t because I have to spend so much energy disciplining and attempting to manage this little learner. To attempt to aid this problem, I have brainstormed a list of possible solutions and strategies to help this student be more successful in the coming weeks – fingers crossed!

Outdoor Explorations = chaotic, but meaningful, learning

Also this week, I did another Treaty Ed/Math lesson where students went outside to gather natural materials to make patterns with. I was so nervous to take my students outside (as we had a sub that day, and she encouraged me to take the students out on my own); at first, I did head counts about every 30 seconds to make sure no one would wander off. I was thoroughly impressed by my students, though. It turns out I had nothing to worry about. They were excited and eager to gather materials. We ended up collecting rocks, sticks, leaves, pinecones, and a few too many ladybugs got into the mix as well. Here are some pictures of my little nature explorers:

Rocks were a popular (and heavy) natural item.

Rocks were a popular (and heavy) natural item.

Picking some grass and green plants growing near the fence.

Picking some grass and green plants growing near the fence.

Getting dressed and undressed to go outside didn't take nearly as long as I originally thought!

Getting dressed and undressed to go outside didn’t take nearly as long as I originally thought!

Making patterns

Making patterns

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Some students liked their nature patterns so much, they asked to take them home in their Ziploc bags. I was thrilled. We also briefly touched on the HCK outcome in Treaty Ed by talking about how we use natural items to suit our needs and how First Nations people thank nature whenever they take something (ex. by leaving tobacco, a special plant, behind). I asked the class how we could possibly say “Thank You” to nature for letting us take some of its items for our use, and one student suggested we leave behind something of ours that is very special to us – how sweet! We ended up just whispering “Thank You” as we picked something up that we liked. I definitely could have gone deeper into this part of the lesson, but students were already afternoon-antsy and wanting to get outside, so we skimmed over this portion of the lesson more than I would have liked. Hopefully we can touch on this again in the future.

Faculty Advisor visits = participation rather than observation

My faculty advisor came for her second visit this week, which went well I am happy to say! I was especially tickled when she asked to participate in my lesson rather than sitting at the back of the room, disengaged and taking notes. I think that this is such a benefit for her, as so much of the learning in Kindergarten is happening through playing and exploring, not just lecture and teacher instruction. It makes me feel like I am doing a good job of making an engaging classroom when she wants to participate in the lesson alongside the students – which is what Kindergarten is really all about!

Week 8, I am both relieved and saddened that you are over. Here’s to an even better Week #9!

-KKF

Oh, P.S., we also painted lady bug rocks this week (which was a fun, yet super hectic experience for me to manage!). They turned out very cute and were part of an emergent curriculum/inquiry project we did after students found lady bugs outside and were fascinated. Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 7.31.37 PM

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patterns and promises, patterns and promises

The past two days have been a whirlwind in the Kindergarten world. Today was school pictures, which meant that, for the first time, I got to see all 30 of my students in one day! Things went surprisingly smooth, considering one class of K’s didn’t even have regular school today and had to come to the school specifically to get their pictures done.

My pattern unit in Math is progressing extremely well. I am so impressed with how quickly my students have caught on to the concepts and how easily they can spot patterns around them in their daily lives. I was tickled pink when a student came up to me at Meet the Teacher night on Monday and told me she found a pattern in her bedroom at home – it’s great when students are interested in what you are teaching them OUTSIDE of the school walls.

The latest lesson we did was all about manipulatives! I set up three different centres for students to rotate through, at which they copied a pattern using different types of objects around the classroom. The hands-on work was obviously a good fit, as the students had minimal problems staying on task or doing their assigned jobs. I was preparing myself for the students to be distracted and disruptive, but they were focused and showed effort. I really enjoyed this type of lesson – it was lively and fun for myself and the students! “Never a dull moment” is becoming a theme for my internship – and I love it!

Here are a few photos I snapped:

Making small, big, small, big patterns with buttons.

Making small, big, small, big patterns with buttons.

Cut up construction paper is a cheap, quick, and easy way to make patterns. The students made a more complicated pattern with these: orange, orange, yellow, purple.

Cut up construction paper is a cheap, quick, and easy way to make patterns. The students made a more complicated pattern with these: orange, orange, yellow, purple.

Students copied patterns with whiteboards. One thing I didn't anticipate was students having trouble with drawing triangles. Note to self: Only use very simple and easy shapes, like circles, lines, X's, crosses, smiley faces, etc.

Students copied patterns with whiteboards. One thing I didn’t anticipate was students having trouble with drawing triangles. Note to self: Only use very simple and easy shapes, like circles, lines, X’s, crosses, smiley faces, etc.

Here is a copy of my lesson plan: Lesson3Pattern

A big realization I had this week is that I need to let go of my mental image of an ideal, perfect classroom. After teaching this lesson for the first time, I felt that it was rather chaotic. When reflecting on my lesson with my cooperating teacher, she kindly pointed out that it was a successful lesson and that “this is what Kindergarten looks like.” She is absolutely right – Kindergarten is messy, and noisy, and all-over-the-place, and full of hands-on exploration. It can definitely look and feel like chaos, but as long as meaningful learning is taking place (which I have discovered is pretty much ALWAYS happening), you have to let go of the idea that all of the students will sit nicely at their desks and do exactly as you originally pictured. This is one of the best things about Kindergarten – I am always surprised at what students will bring to the table and how differently they will view a lesson than I do.

It is going to be a continued learning experience for me as I keep being introduced to what exactly a Kindergarten class looks like.

Also this week, I covered a lesson that I am extremely proud of and excited about: a Treaty Ed/Social Studies crossover all about Promises. Here is the lesson plan: PromisesLesson

I was extremely impressed with how well the K’s watched the video book (link here – “The Promise” read online) and discussed its main elements in detail. They had a much deeper conversation than I expected going in. They also sat for an extended period of time in the talking circle – maybe this was increased stamina due to a change of scenery (sitting in a circle versus all facing one way)?

The students then made their own promises that would help to keep our classroom a safe and happy place. They then illustrated them. Here are a few samples:

books promise

follow rules promise

What a cute (and smart) promise!

What a cute (and smart) promise!

play w friends promise

Notice the cowboy hats - too cute!

Notice the cowboy hats – too cute!

Today, the students went outside for Phys Ed (as the photographer was in the gymnasium). They soon noticed an abundance of lady bugs and, in true Kindergarten fashion, we quickly grabbed some handy bug houses to collect them in. Emergent curriculum makes its first appearance in my internship: we are going to have an observation centre and a KWL/mini-inquiry lesson on lady bugs tomorrow! All I have to say is: Thank goodness for teacher librarians! We let her know (at the end of the school day) that we were looking for books about lady bugs and not too long after, she magically appears in our room with several options (fiction and non-fiction to boot!). I will be sure to snap lots of pictures and post about our lady bug inquiry soon.

Until then,

-KKF

treaty education

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A couple of things came up for me during Claire Kreuger’s presentation on Treaty Education today:

  • I think it is very exciting that the push for inclusion of Indigenous viewpoints is becoming more prominent in education as it is such an integral part of our country’s past
  • I feel that I don’t know a great deal about treaties myself, but I think learning something alongside your students is a great approach – if teachers include Treaty Education in their classroom, they will be educating themselves along the way as professional, lifelong learners
  • Integrating things like Environmental Education, Treaty Education, and social justice into other subjects’ curriculum goals is a necessary skill in order for teachers to accomplish everything they are required to in one year
  • These tasks may be very daunting, but they are worth it in the end
  • We, as teachers, need to be connected to as many resources as possible (ex. elders, teachers on Twitter, other professionals, etc.) if we are going to make the most of these decisions – no one person can do it alone! You will need a lot of help and should embrace that fact if you are going to succeedImage

To bridge off that last point of sharing resources and being connected, I thought I would share with you some wonderful resources that Richard Van Camp (an author from the Dogrib nation in NWT) shared with me after an in-class presentation in my English 110 class last year (I highly recommend his children’s book, “What’s the Most Beautiful Thing You Know About Horses?” – it has lovely illustrations!)

Primary Aboriginal Resources – This resources offers many different ways you can incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing into various subject areas. It includes a TON of stories.

Primary Storybook Favourites – This second resources has a vast array of children’s books with Aboriginal themes. And don’t worry, there are representatives from many different First Nations cultures, not just one (because after Claire’s presentation, we will all be cognizant of the fact that they are NOT all the same).

Enjoy!

(And in case you want to get synced up with Claire:    

Twitter: @ClaireKreuger      

Classroom Blog: mmekreuger.edublogs.org

Treaty Education Blog: treatypeople.edublogs.org)

-KKF