In early October, WCI held an indigenous awareness week. Various efforts were made around the school to honour this week, but a survey with the students of WCI revealed that it, despite these efforts, fell short.
In an interview with Mrs. Kalinowski, we learned where this week came from. At a previous school, Mrs. K experienced indigenous awareness week once a year. They had speakers, events, and lots of student participation to learn about the indigenous peoples and their struggles. Mrs. K saw that this week was a great way to educate students and wanted to share it with the students and staff of WCI.
In the art room at lunch, Mrs. K hosted collaborative replica paintings of indigenous art. Everyone was welcome to come paint, and over the five days approximately twenty students came out to participate. Throughout the week, other events were held at lunch by various teachers. However, the advertising for these events was rushed and many students didn’t hear about them until after.
After a student survey about WCI’s indigenous awareness week, I learned that many students didn’t even know the week had happened. The morning announcements said little regarding the events that week, and few teachers got their students involved. While some students saw the posters and infographics, most didn’t realize what they were for.
Mrs. Kalinowski’s grade eleven visual arts class had a project dedicated to learning about Native American art. Jenna O., a student in this class, told me that they researched indigenous art and created paintings inspired by the art styles. After, they visited half a dozen classrooms and shared what they learned through this process.
Another student, Marriah B., told me that “there were opportunities, but they were mainly focused on specific classes or other schools (the powwow at Huron Heights). A lot of teachers didn’t even talk about it.” While some students got an educational experience from the week, others were left none the wiser.
WCI’s indigenous awareness week was created with the best intentions. The goal was to educate and inform, but the last-minute organization hampered the experience. Had teachers been given more time to plan and execute, perhaps the week would have been more successful. Overall, students agree that WCI’s indigenous awareness has room to grow.