Urban Thunderbirds Pilot Project
Urban Thunderbirds was a year long mentoring project at Parkview Secondary High School which included a variety of activities aimed at enhancing Aboriginal students’ graduation rates.
Equine Assisted Learning
“In Western Cree and other First Nations cultures, the horse is revered as part of the circle of creation… It possesses an intrinsic spiritual value.” Our newest venture is the introduction of equine assisted learning to the Aboriginal students. Through a certified Aboriginal trainer in EAL, students worked with horses toward achievement in: Self Reflection, Goal Setting and Maintaining, Boundary Setting and Maintaining, Communication and Relationships. This learning style allowed students to acquire land-based teachings. A program of this nature is very important to young Aboriginal men. Elders worked with the youth to demonstrate “rites of passage” and explain traditional and contemporary roles and responsibilities of men.
Our Horse Social – Finale of The Equine Assisted Learning Program
To cap off the Equine Assisted Learning Program, we offered an an evening of fun and information for Nyaweh students and their family & friends, included showing the results of Equine Assisted Learning workshops presented by Aboriginal students, “The Unity Ride”, a spiritual journey for Aboriginal youth presented by Bonnie Freeman, EAL instructor, Aboriginal Social Work, McMaster University, a traditional giveaway and a thank you to the horses.
The Métis Women’s Circle provided reading resources in the Nyaweh room at Parkview to encourage students to read and investigate books. A list of preferred reading materials was submitted by the youth worker and reviewed by the Métis Women’s Circle organizers. Reading resources were aimed at teenage readership with a variety of titles to choose from – novels, comics, legends, and noted Aboriginal authors like Joseph Bruchac. Bruchac has written award winning titles which were purchased for students and as resources for the Nyawen room: “Keepers of the Earth”, “Tell Me a Tale”, “When the Chenoo Howls”, “The Heart of a Chief”, “Pushing Up The Sky”.
Literacy Initiatives & Hockey Fun
Through initiation by the Métis Women’s Circle, the Bulldogs suggested further ideas for literacy incentives for students including signed memorabilia, motivational speakers, and tickets for Bulldogs games in the future. At a home game on January 15, 2010, Aboriginal students met with Bulldogs President, Glenn Stanford, a former high school teacher from the east coast of Canada who recognizes well the problems and barriers at Parkview. He was very helpful in suggesting strategies to improve literacy, attendance, and other motivational incentives for Aboriginal students. After the game, students and their families met with Rochester American owner, Ted Nolan, Aboriginal entrepreneur. Parents expressed their appreciation for a wholesome family activity which, they stated, would not have been within their reach without the assistance of the program.
Parkview Talent Show
Parkview’s Principal, Paul Beattie, requested a specific Aboriginal component to their 2009 talent show and sought our assistance in this regard. The Métis Women’s Circle hired a professional Anishnaabe drama coach to instruct students on dance and choreography as well as prop making techniques. The drama coach taught female students the “Butterfly Dance” along with the storytelling and history of this dance to present at the Talent Show. Students were provided with materials and embellishments to make their own dance shawls which they personalized with Aboriginal designs and animal totems. Students were allowed to keep their shawls as a remembrance of their work on the talent show.
Feasts & Fun
Students and their families celebrated students’ achievements at feasts to mark special times of the year and the progress of our projects. Members of local Aboriginal agencies and school personnel joined in the celebrations. Students requested more of these events to share their school life with their families.
Sister to Sister Young Women Gathering
The Métis Women’s Circle was pleased to host this special assembly to address contemporary issues faced by high school female students. The assembly took place in November 2010 with facilitation by social workers from Six Nations of the Grand River Territory.