Recently, I had a unique opportunity to support the Experiential Learning Initiative in Fort Chipewyan as they went on their annual moose camp, to support the camp, take photos and to share the story. This is an incredible example of collaboration and partnership, with many partner organizations including Athabasca Delta Community School, Lake Athabasca Youth Council, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Mikisew Cree First Nation, Metis Local, Chief’s Corner, Mikisew Trappers, Sustainable Communities Initiative and Shell Canada.
In the elevator: culturally relevant outdoor education.
For the readers: Moose camp is a seasonal (fall) learning experience, where a teacher, group of students and local land-user or Elder go out to the bush, camp, and hunt for moose. Oh, and learn! Whether it is life skills, leadership, problem solving, curriculum or culture, the learning is constant. Moose camp is bi-cultural co-teaching, where an Elder shares traditional knowledge, and a teacher supports connections to the curriculum. All learning and knowledge is equally important, and essential to the holistic development of a student.
Moose Camp Matters: Why is it Innovative?
Sure, experiential learning practices have been around for a long, long time. Like Confucius said “I hear, I know. I see, I remember. I do, I understand.” That was back in the 500 BC range, and here we are in 2016 with an education system that is inundated with industrial revolution-style learning that is not designed for understanding, but knowing and remembering (maybe). If you have 10 minutes, here’s a great summary of what I’m talking about by Sir Ken Robinson (thank you, Sir Ken!)
That’s just a wee bit of context for why moose camp is education innovation and it doesn’t speak to Canada’s historical context, where indigenous people were violently assimilated for over 120 years. Bringing two worldviews together, teaching them side-by-side is quite a departure from our residential school history. Allowing students to gain credit for learning and developing their own cultural identity, sense of self and pride represents institutional change in how we look at and provide education. To really innovate the system, that I believe is holding indigenous youth down and back, we need changes in values and behavior that are structured to enable them to reach their full potential and be true to themselves. I believe this innovation in education will have a positive impact on this generation and future generations of indigenous, and non-indigenous youth.
What did I learn?
Here are the top three lessons I came home with:
- Patience: Being patient is an important part of hunting, working with youth, and social innovation! Change takes time, growth takes time, and it takes days to find a moose, especially if the wind is blowing at 30 km/h.
- Listen to what the Earth is telling you: and do something about it! When you’re moose hunting, you have all of your senses aware of what’s happening around you, you need to listen to the wind, the birds, the sounds of the forest to know where a moose might be or be going. In our day-to-day, we need to pay more attention to the Earth, to the changes that are happening to our environment, and take action to improve it.
- All our relations: Finding ways to show equal respect for ALL of our relations – with ourselves, each other, our environment, our past, our present, and our future. We are part of a much bigger story of humankind and we need to respect the part we play in that story and work with our relations, rather than against them. I observed the great potential of multi-generational, multi-cultural collaboration and learning. While it might take more time and effort to set up for multiple generations and cultures to come together and share experiences, the greater the diversity of age and culture = a greater diversity of perspectives and the more we can learn from each other. Learning across cultures and generations breaks down the traditional student-teacher dynamic, acknowledging that we all have something to learn from each other and opening that possibility of learning from each other.
I want to close by expressing my gratitude explicitly, though I hope you’ve heard it implicitly through this post: A huge thanks to friends and allies in Fort Chipewyan, especially Athabasca Delta Community School who initiated this opportunity!
Posted with Love and Respect by Tori