Sunday, 11 December 2016

Infusing Aboriginal stories into our learning and the manifestation of our Aboriginal cards fundraiser!

From the first book I read (Nanabosho How The Turtle Got It's Shell), the children were mesmerized by the characters, story line, surprise, and adventure found in the Aboriginal stories.

Each week I read a new story and it didn't take long before some children started creating books with their own story versions or re-telling the stories using materials.

The stories became very popular and an area was set-up to support the children in exploring the Aboriginal stories further. 

Open ended and natural materials were set out along with small plastic forest animals and plasticine to provide a variety of different ways the children can use the materials to express their learning and re-telling of the stories. 

The children chose to work independently, with a partner, or in a small group to re-tell a story of their choice. 

Each time a story was shared with peers, the children improved in their public speaking skills and were more prepared by taking the time to practice acting out their story.  

Stories are not only entertaining. They help us learn. Stories were the primary teaching aid of many First Nation People, and storytelling is still very important today. For every event, natural feature or animal, there was a story. 

As we studied the stories more deeply and compared their similarities and differences, the children learned more about the characters and lessons that some of the stories provided. Some of the stories made reference to teasing, bullying, fear, and trickery, while others exemplified courage and bravery, friendship, and kindness. 

During Sketching Time, I decided to introduce the children to some North West Coast and Ojibwa Aboriginal art work.  

To begin the sketching session I modeled the sketching of a hummingbird. I made notice to the lines, shapes, colours, and designs found in my hummingbird art piece as well as in the many other art pieces they would have the opportunity to choose from. I had the children use sharpies and oil pastel pencils to experiment with. I must admit, I had a bit of a change of heart as I started modeling the sketching of the hummingbird. I found it quite difficult and worried about how the children were going to make out. I didn't want them to become frustrated but I did want them to at least try. But I was pleasantly surprised at how much they enjoyed this experience and in their connection to the animal they chose to sketch. 

The children started to wonder why animals were used to tell many of the stories. I was so glad when I found the book "Sometimes I Feel Like A Fox".  

The book provides an introduction to the Anishinaabe tradition of totem animals, with young children explaining why they identify with different creatures such as a deer, beaver or moose.
Danielle Daniel explains the importance of totem animals in Anishinaabe culture and how they can also act as animal guides for young children seeking to understand themselves and others. ( book summary:

The Aboriginal stories we have been reading are full of life lessons that highlight many character traits through the use of animal protagonists. As we learned more about the meaning of the stories, we also learned about the meaning that each of the animal characters held. 

Totem animals serve as guides and their meanings teach positive life lessons. As we discussed the meanings of some of the totem animals we also took time to reflect on our own strengths. Through these knowledge building discussions, the children were able to select a totem animal that they best identified with.

Acts of Kindness...

Simultaneously the children have been learning about what it means to be and do kind things. During a discussion K. C. suggested that maybe we could keep a tally of kind things being done in our classroom. 

The children liked this idea and taking S. F.'s idea, use post it notes to write down the acts of kindness they noticed their peers doing and placing the post it notes in the "Kindness Jar." 

Growth of an idea...

With our school toy drive coming to an end the children seemed quite sad one morning because they were not able to donate toys anymore. I explained that if they wanted we could do a classroom donation of our own. The children seemed to be excited about the idea and began making suggestions for what could be donated!
  • Money - E. B.
  • Books - C. T.
  • Clothes - K. C.
  • Crayons - T. H.
  • Paper - J. B.
  • Cat food - D. F.
  • Dog food - W. C. and C. W. 

Ella had a wonderful suggestion which everyone seemed to really like. She wanted all the children to make cards for animals. But a few children wanted to know how the cards would help animals since they can't read? After some discussing S. F. suggested that the cards can be sold and the money can be donated to an animal shelter.

The card creations...

One day on our way to the gym, E. B. told me she had a great idea for what the children could sketch on the cards for the animals. She suggested the children sketch and paint their Totem Animal! 

Below are the cards that are displayed on our bulletin board outside our classroom. D. F. suggested we sell them for $10 which I thought was reasonable especially given the effort they demonstrated in creating the cards. Below each card is a statement that reflects why they chose the Totem Animal that best represents their own character. 

After the cards were finished P. M. C. asked if he could speak to Mr. Nigro (Principal) about being able to make an announcement about our card fundraiser. D. F. then suggested the class make some posters to place around the school so other grades and teachers know that we are selling the cards for the Toronto Humane Society and the Toronto Wildlife Centre!

K. C. and D. F. writing their announcement speech.

E. B. sorting the money we collected thus far from some of the cards that sold.

Using beads to help us count how much money we have received from the sale of some of our cards!

The cards have been available for purchase for only a few days we have already raised $270! We are excited to see how much more we collect in another week!

Thank you to everyone who has supported our card fundraiser. I couldn't be more proud of the children for their kind idea to help animals in need.