In May we recognize the SD46 value of responsibility. In preparation for June 21 National Indigenous Peoples Day, it is a great opportunity to highlight an Indigenous practice of social responsibility. Indigenous ways of knowing have been adopted by SD46 as a key educational lens through which we can implement experiential learning in the classroom. Inquiry based and experiential learning are the ways of sharing knowledge that have been championed in the new curriculum.
One opportunity to incorporate many of these learning goals is to use the circle. A typical circle is a format for peaceful discussion, dialogue and sharing. It involves sitting in a circle formation-symbolizing continuity and shared responsibility. Everyone is equal in the circle. The circle has a purpose, stated and agreed to, a topic. There is usually a talking piece – some symbolic and real artifact that is passed in the circle. This talking piece usually has significance to the topic. The story of the talking piece is typically shared by the circle facilitator. The facilitator also expresses the rules, that the talking piece is passed clockwise or counterclockwise, each person taking a turn (even if they “pass”) when the piece is passed to them. The only person allowed to speak is the person holding the talking piece. The circle is used by the educators in the SD46 Indigenous Advisory Circle, it is used widely in early learning, parent education in the district; as well as a foundational practice in restorative justice. It is an excellent way to deal with classroom conflict resolution, and using the circle regularly for other purposes or simply sharing learning can positively impact classroom culture. The emotional maturity, social responsibility and experiential learning using this Indigenous “way of knowing” is building the positive culture in our district.