Truth and Reconciliation Week in the Classroom

03 October 2021


This week was Truth and Reconciliation Week in Canada.  Although officially recognized over one week, these are conversations and teachings that should happen throughout the school year, not just one week, or one day.  Reconciliation is about building relationships and respect, and that just cannot be reduced to a week.

I wanted to share some of the activities, readings, and discussions I had with my Grade 5/6 class this year, mainly inspired by this resource, Every Child Matters.  After reading the book Trudy's Rock Story, and discussing how Trudy uses rocks to relieve her anger and release her feelings, we decided that making our own Resilience Rocks could help us process some of our feelings about Canada's history, mainly anger and confusion, and by placing them back on the Earth, we could release some of the feelings and remember to act.

Tuesday we started painting our rocks orange while I read the story, I am Not a Number.  (We used acrylic paint - I would suggest spray paint - we had to do many many coats of acrylic paint, and them still seal them).  We also watch a video from residential school survivor, Lillian Elias, and then used orange sticky notes to send her a message.

Wednesday we sealed the rocks with an outdoor mod podge.  We did this BEFORE they wrote on them, otherwise the sharpie marker would pull the paint off when we wrote.  We read the story, When I was Eight, and wrote some more reflections on sticky notes.

Thursday was Truth and Reconciliation Day and Orange Shirt Day.  For art in the morning, we looked at beautiful examples of Indigenous Art and Artists - current and past.  We worked on Canada Goose Drawings, inspired by Benjamin Chee Chee.  We chose the Canada Goose because we liked how they inspired flight - and they may have to move or leave for a bit, but they always come back, stronger. I let the students use their laptops to look at different images while they drew their own.  These turned out stunningly.  Even mine - and I usually struggle with a stick figure.

We had been talking about what message we wanted to share on Orange Shirt Day on our Resilience Rocks, and had brainstormed a long list over the week.  Some students wanted to apologize, others wanted to send a word of support or strength, and some just wanted to share their beliefs that every child really does matter.  We knew we would placing the rocks around our school yard and school community and we wanted to choose something that would inspire continuing to spread this message - that every child matters and why we need to understand why.

In the afternoon we took a 2.15 km walk (for the 215 children found in Kamloops) and placed our Resilience Rocks around the school community.  As we walked in our orange shirts, we were careful to spread them out around our route so we could share our messages with our small community.  I told my students that if they were able, it would be nice to bring their grown-ups to where they placed their rocks earlier, and tell them about our learning and their reflections from the week.

Our last day was spent working on the writing reflection, "If I was given a $1000 budget to plan an Orange Shirt Day event at my school, this is what I would do."

Again, this was our week of Truth and Reconciliation activities in the classroom, but our conversations won't end at the end of the week.  This acknowledgement and promise to learn the truth will continue throughout our whole year of curriculum.

If you are looking to add more indigenous-themed books and authors to your classroom, HERE is a good place to get started.

How were some ways you observed Truth and Reconciliation week at your school?

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