Written by: Mac Walton, Resiliency Coordinator, Ever Active Schools
In 2016-17, Ever Active Schools received funding from the Urban Partnerships program to launch the Miyomahchihowin project, which means “in good health” in Cree. The project provided pathways for 30 Indigenous youth to build personal skills and access employment or volunteer opportunities in the areas of sport, recreation, health and physical fitness through two main activities: a leadership training weekend and a Spring Break camp. Both these activities targeted high school aged Indigenous youth in Edmonton, and provided free opportunities to obtain certifications, training and/or high school credits.
Through these activities, youth completed a variety of certifications including First Aid & CPR, Mini Soccer Referee, Concussion in Sport and WHMIS. They also participated in skill development sessions on a wide range of topics, including volleyball, daily physical activity, bowhunting, outdoor survival skills and cultural values. Over 100 high school credits were earned by youth participating in the Miyomahchihowin project, and four youth reached the number of credits needed to graduate high school. The Spring Break camp was so successful, similar projects are now being planned within other school jurisdictions.
Following on the success of this project, Ever Active Schools partnered with Edmonton Public School Boards’ First Nation, Métis and Inuit Education unit to host a series of one-credit weekend opportunities for First Nation Métis and Inuit students from high schools across Edmonton. With the goal to provide training for active, outdoor and traditional activities, students are able to get one step closer to graduation by earning one credit in only two days. These holistic and experiential learning opportunities build resiliency in students by creating something from the ground up. As a student noted, “It was awesome creating something from scratch and knowing how it was built and how to build it.”
The first of these one-credit weekends took place on October 20 and 21, 2017 and focused on traditional bowhunting. The students, led by bow-making Knowledge Keeper Jerry Saddleback, began with raw logs and were able to experience the challenges, learn the patience and practice the skills needed to build bows in the traditional way. The opportunity also included wilderness safety, the basics of using a bow, target practice and both traditional and contemporary hunting ethics.
Students appreciated the opportunity to work with a Knowledge Keeper who embodied the wisdom and patience to build traditional bows. As one student said after the program, “I really liked the teachings about the outdoors when hunting, and the great knowledge that was said from Elder Jerry… it’s fun learning especially when the expert is right beside you [guiding] you step by step.”
More recently, on February 9 and 10, 2018, students participated in an outdoor survival skills training with Wilson Bearhead at the Strathcona Wilderness Centre. This opportunity for students provided experiential learning braiding traditional knowledge with current curriculum.