Education News Fall2015/Winter 2016 - Page 11


care of Charlene Bearhead . One of the teachers in Saskatoon Catholic Board , Lynette Brossart , and her students , who had completed Project of Heart , were invited to come to the National Event . Lynette was very concerned to find out that there were IRS Survivors there who had never heard of Project of Heart and felt the need to do something about it . She came up with the idea of the learner groups making cards for the survivors . With this step , when there are events that Survivors are attending , they could be given a card with one Project of Heart tile attached to it , that would let them know that the learners cared about them , and that they were learning about their situation so that this would never happen again . It worked ! Project of Heart had now come full circle .
4 . What were the circumstances that led you to develop the Project of Heart ?
There were a few ‘ circumstances ’ that led to the development of the project , but the easiest to explain is the fact that I couldn ’ t justify to my Grade 10 students why such a major part of our history was invisible . Young people will challenge their teachers if something doesn ’ t make sense , and in the only mandatory history course there is in Ontario high schools ( contemporary Canadian History ), there was a huge , absolutely gaping void . When a particularly inquiring student , Andrea , was finding evidence in her research that was creating a cognitive dissonance for her ( it was the number of students that had perished while at the schools ) she would not give up trying to figure out why this egregious part of history was so neglected . I had no choice but to be gently led by her curiosity , fast-becoming-anger . Our textbook dedicated two paragraphs ( 63 words ) to the IRS era . Andrea couldn ’ t believe it , and I couldn ’ t either . So between her righteous anger and my integrity on the line as a history teacher , we decided that if the textbook couldn ’ t tell us the truth , we would find it and learn it on our own ! And not only that , but also we ’ d help others whom we knew were as ignorant , maybe even more-so , than we were ! So Andrea got to work , continuing her research and at the same time , building contacts in both the Aboriginal and settler community that could help her and her classmates make sense of their past . They all felt betrayed . They had grown up proud to be Canadian , and now that identity was being challenged in a major way .
In a nutshell , there were a lot of relationships made , guest speakers invited , ( IRS survivors in the community ), and activists who supported the students in this educational endeavour right from the start . The students did what was within their capability to do ( write proposals so we could get some money to buy the wooden tiles , and pay honouraria for Aboriginal guests to come and talk to us ) and I did my part . Project of Heart began with the first ceremony to honour the children who had died .
This is where the U of R comes into the story : While the students were busy making poster boards , learning , and going class-to-class to invite students in other rooms to participate in their teach-ins and guest speakers , I was taking Dr . Spooner ’ s Social Justice course . I Skyped into the evening class once per week from Ottawa ( I was the box-head that spoke through a TV )!
The first Truth and Reconciliation Commission had been struck , and there was a call for proposals to do “ Commemorative Projects .” I thought , “ Why not ? Let ’ s do what we ’ re doing in the class already , and just formalize it ?” I decided to ask permission to do a Project of Heart proposal in place of the essay assignment for the class : putting what we were doing , and the purpose for what we were doing on paper was the only thing that was missing . Articulating the project would allow other groups to join the effort .
Dr . Spooner accepted the proposal as my project , and Project of Heart became formalized : It was envisioned , and its parts fully explained . Supporters came through to help us build the teaching module . The Canadian Union of Postal Workers supplied all the boxes , free of charge . The Legacy of Hope Foundation gifted us with thousands of dollars worth of resources with which we would fill the kits . I would purchase the small tiles and fill the kit with a prearranged number . And perhaps the
most important thing — cost — I wanted potential users to know that they could experience this transformative learning , for less than the cost of textbook . The only caveat was that their heart had to be in it , and they had to be willing to engage the Indigenous community . Project of Heart would only work if it was centered on Indigenous people and their experiences .
So , it is these resources that I sent out to any learner group who wanted them . It was truly a labour of love . My partner created the website ( www . projectofheart . ca ) where groups who do the project could upload pictures and a report on their experiences doing Project of Heart . This part was essential because as schools and other learner groups reported on their experiences , they gave ideas and inspiration to other groups . I insured that faciliator directions were packed in the boxes and that an inventory of what was included in the kit was included .
5 . Has the POH made it difficult for you to finish your M . Ed . studies ?
Yes , doing POH has made it difficult to finish my M . Ed . I started my thesis work in 2011 . I was interested in finding out what teachers ’ perceptions were of doing Project of Heart . I had done all the interviews and when the tough work began , we had an illness in the family and I too became very over-stressed . My work suffered . And the longer one leaves the work , the more difficult it is to come back to it . I ’ m also older , and don ’ t have as much energy as I used to have . But I am trying to complete it before next spring . In the interim , the landscape has changed so much . When I ’ d started , materials on Indian Residential Schools were almost nil . Now there are lots ! And POH has grown exponentially ! So what was supposed to be “ snapshot in time ” has now become much more , and figuring out how it ’ s all going to come together is challenging .
Photo courtesy of Jane Brundige and Brooke Alexander
Faculty of Education Education News Fall 2015 / Winter 2016 Page 11