Indigenous Outdoor Classroom at St John CHS, Perth
For teacher Daniel Hayes, the dream of developing an outdoor Indigenous classroom at St. John Catholic High School began during a CDSBEO Indigenous professional development day in 2017. Although there were many setbacks due to the pandemic, Dan and colleague Mireille Lapointe persevered to see their vision become reality on May 6, 2022.
Thanks to the support of many community partners, the outdoor Indigenous classroom now offers students a communal space to learn about First Nation, Métis, and Inuit cultures, and to recognize the land as unceded traditional Algonquin territory of the Anishinaabe people.
The space features a gathering circle surrounded by pine trees from Eagle Lake First Nation. During harvesting, Semah (tobacco) was placed beside each tree as an offering of gratitude to the Creator, further reinforcing the significance of this space and the importance of the land it occupies.
The CDSBEO has partnered with Eastern Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) to develop the ReconciliACTION Initiative – a campaign to help teachers and educational staff integrate Indigenous perspectives into their work in schools. Funds are provided through the initiative, as well as insight and direction from community partners to ensure the work being done appropriately respects and acknowledges the territory and the people.
Congratulations to Dan, Mireille, and current and future students of St. John Catholic High School on the establishment of this important space as we continue the journey towards reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in our region and across Turtle Island.
The CDSBEO would like to thank the Indigenous Education Team and our partners at Eastern OECTA for making this project possible.