Experiential learning is an educational experience that extends beyond the classroom, as it allows students to apply their knowledge to real-world problems or authentic situations. It is a practice which we at Focus Forward for Indigenous Youth deploy in our community-focused programming by combing theoretical classroom learning with the practical execution of building something concrete, like a greenhouse for example.
Recently, the CBC posted an article which shares how Chief Little Pine School in Saskatchewan, has been using the experiential learning model successfully in its own unique fashion. The First Nations students from the Grade 7/8 class will take part in a unique field trip to learn about treaties. Perhaps the word field trip is too mundane for this example, as the students of the 7/8 class will be journeying to New Zealand for an authentic learning experience focused on the treaties and colonization experience of the Maoris people.
The teacher of the class, Oksasikewiyin, explained to the CBC that the idea for the trip stemmed from the realization that the Indigenous peoples of New Zealand share similarities within their history with Indigenous peoples of Canada. This recognition is an example of cross-cultural connections between Indigenous peoples. Although each Indigenous community’s experience is unique in the challenges they have faced as a result of different forms of colonialism, these cross-cultural connections illuminate some of the shared struggles and experiences between Indigenous peoples.
As well, the trip aims to expand the students’ perspective through traveling. Oksasikewiyin acknowledges that he wants the students to learn that the world is “bigger than the reserve and that traveling and seeing the world is possible.” The program he teaches is called Awasisak Nlkan; which means “children first.” As Oksasikewiyin explained to the CBC, the program is designed to help youth to “build identity and self-esteem”.
There is no doubt that the trip will be highly educational, however equally important is the exposure to different opportunities that the students will experience. These opportunities can broaden perspectives and develop confidence that can, in turn, encourage students to continue to learn and explore. The school’s focus on building identity, self-esteem, and exploring opportunities, are all priorities Focus Forward shares. Chief Little Pine’s field trip is an inspiring example of the power of experiential learning, a model we hope to continue to learn from.
Check out the CBC article here:
Bellegarde, Brad. “First Nations kids head to New Zealand to learn about Treaty of Waitangi.” CBCnews, 31 January 2018.