Indigenous educators are volunteering their time to help educate students online as schools in many provinces and territories are closing in efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.
“I wanted to offer these online Facebook, social media classes for parents who are at home with their kids, just so they can connect with their learning,” said Chris Scribe.
Scribe has been a teacher since 2005 and is the director of the University of Saskatchewan’s Indian Teacher Education Program (ITEP). He is also the director and founder of Think Indigenous, a conference that brings together Indigenous educators from across western Canada.
On Tuesday, Scribe and other educators took turns going “live” on their Facebook pages, offering lessons geared toward different grade levels. One of the goals of the online classrooms is to hopefully take children away from their cellphones and Playstations during the school closures, according to Scribe.
“My passion is to include Indigenous knowledge in everything that we do,” said Scribe.
“All of these courses, we are asking people to include as much Indigenous knowledge as possible.”
In his first lesson aimed at Grade 4 students, Scribe talked about storytelling and encouraged the viewers to think about their own family and community stories.
“We tend to think that the only place that we can learn is at school, when that is not the case,” he said.
“The best place to learn Indigenous knowledge is in our stories and in our communities, this is a cool time for that to happen.”
On the first day of the virtual classrooms, there were eight certified teachers signed up to present. One of the teachers talked about an Indigenous perspective of bacteria, the history of it, and what it means in today’s context.
Talking about stress
Another teacher, Curtis Vinish, is Métis and Filipino and recently graduated from the Saskatchewan Urban Native Education Program (SUNTEP). He works at St. Frances Cree Bilingual School in Saskatoon, developing and teaching an urban, Nehiyaw language and land-based curriculum.
His target audience was middle school students.
“My lesson was 20 minutes …I wanted to share some lessons and teachings that I’ve had on stress management,” said Vinish.
“We have never faced a situation like this before in modern society. I think it’s important to talk about mental health issues in our communities, especially with self isolation being recommended.”
He administers the Think Indigenous – Online Indigenous Education K-8 Facebook page. He said the plan is to try and keep the virtual classrooms operating on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with potential assignments distributed on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
There are no high school classes scheduled yet, but Vinish said they might add some in the future.