By Scott Strasser, November 22 2016 —
Werklund School of Education professors and the Education Students’ Association (ESA) are collaborating for a reconciliation event meant to bring students, educators and the community together. The event is called Eyes Open, Eyes High: Inspiring Visions in the Midst of Difficult Teaching and Learning.
The Dec. 3 event will feature speakers, a digital showcase of Werklund students’ assignments from the course EDUC 530: FNMI History, Education and Leadership and a guest musical performance entitled “New Blood” presented by Strathmore High School students.
EDUC 530 co-instructor Yvonne Poitras Pratt said the event will showcase some of the transformative learning that takes place in her course.
“It’s in reference to transforming the way they see the world,” she said.
Created in 2013, EDUC 530 is a mandatory course for education students at the U of C. The class analyzes the impact of Canada’s treatment of indigenous peoples on indigenous society today.
“Basically what we do is move students back in time to understand there’s a deep, deep history here in Canada,” Pratt said. “EDUC 530 takes students to understand the deep foundational roots of first peoples and then it [jumps] forward to the point of contact. Then we talk about the history of colonialism and its impacts on the indigenous peoples in Canada.”
The course also discusses the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), a report released in November 2015. The TRC documents experiences of survivors and family members affected by Canadian residential schools.
The TRC also outlines 94 calls to action that ask governments at all levels in Canada to work to improve the lives of indigenous peoples.
Pratt said it’s important for tomorrow’s educators to have a full grasp of the TRC and Canada’s history, including the regrettable parts. She said education faculties need to lead the way on ensuring Canadian children are aware of the darker sides of Canada’s past.
“If we teach [future teachers] a biased or sanitized version of Canadian history, we’re not moving forward on a strong understanding of who we are,” Pratt said. “[The course] teaches students to understand that Canada not only has things to celebrate but we also have things we need to work on to move forward in a positive way.”
One of the course’s assignments is to take a concept photograph and explain how it expresses indigenous issues and empowerment. ESA president Chris Klune said that particular assignment is what led to the creation of Eyes Open, Eyes High.
“The point of the assignment is to get us thinking in a different way,” Klune said. “We have students from that course who did the assignment submit their photos and they add a 5–10 second voice bit to it. Those are going to be presented and discussions will ensue.”
Eyes Open, Eyes High will take place on Dec. 3 from 2:30 – 5:00 p.m. in the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning. The cost of attending the event is $10. Proceeds will support the ESA’s legacy fund for reconciliation initiatives.