STS Elementary students learn the importance of reconciliation during Marti McKay Week 2018
This year, being committed to our own journey of Reconciliation, STS dedicated part of Marti McKay Week to hosting artists who spoke to our students about the impacts and legacy of Residential Schools in Canada as well as about the resiliency of Indigenous peoples.
On Tuesday October 16, Mike Downie, brother of the late Gord Downie (former lead singer of The Tragically Hip), spoke to students in Grades 5 through 12 about his collaboration on the multi-media project, Secret Path, consisting of a music album and a graphic novel (by Jeff Lemire), and an animated film. Secret Path tells the story of Chanie Wenjack, an Ojibway boy who died while running away from his Residential school. Mr. Downie recently won a Canadian Screen Award, and the Allan King Award for Documentary Excellence for Secret Path. Mr. Downie is co-founder of the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund, part of the movement to jumpstart reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous. Mr. Downie shared with students his own journey in first discovering Chanie’s story and the process behind the creation of the graphic novel, album and animated film. He also spoke about the importance of learning the truth about Residential Schools and challenged students to imagine and create a more inclusive and equitable country moving forward. Mr. Downie then spent an hour with our Grade 6 classes who are currently researching and learning about Residential Schools. Students had the opportunity to ask questions and engage in dialogue with Mr. Downie about his work and the knowledge he has gained through his own journey of Reconciliation.
On Wednesday, October 17, we welcomed authors, Ms. Jordan-Fenton and Ms. Pokiak-Fenton. They have written several books including Fatty Legs, Not My Girl and When I was Eight. The books centre around Ms. Pokiak-Fenton’s previous experiences at Residential School. Ms. Pokiak-Fenton is Inuvialuit and her childhood was filled with hunting trips by dogsled and treks across the Arctic Ocean for supplies. When she was eight years old, she travelled to Aklavik, a fur trading settlement established by her great grandfather, to attend the Catholic Residential School. The authors presented to students in Grades 4 through 7 and shared Ms. Pokiak’s Fenton’s personal stories and memories as well as presented information about Residential schools.
Kean Soo, graphic novelist of the Jellaby series and March Grand Prix series, inspired students with his presentation on Thursday. His message about creating strong characters, and his detailed sharing about his creative process gave our students insight into the tremendous amount of work that goes into a graphic novel. His message that “reading is empathy” empowered us all to seek out books that tell diverse stories, so we can better understand people and the world around us. Parents and kids can keep up with Kean on his website http://www.keaner.net.
Ben Clanton brought the positive energy and exuberance of the beloved Narwhal character to his interactive presentation on Friday. Students learned his daily creative warm-up - drawing “Miximals” (mixed up animals) and helped create zebra/lion/unicorns and elephant/butterfly/owls, complete with a question and answer session that helped us discover the unique characters’ favourite foods, pastimes, and fears. This led us to brainstorming many different stories we could tell with the character. He also gave us a sneak peek into the next instalment of the Narwhal and Jelly series “Narwhal’s Otter Friend” which was a delight. Parents are reporting that their children doodled all weekend, and self-published Narwhal and Jelly stories are rolling into the library! What an inspiring way to end Marti McKay Week! Parents and kids can keep up with Ben at http://www.benclanton.com or on Instagram @benclantoon.