Students enrolled in the Expressions of First Nations, Metis and Inuit Cultures course at St. Pius X High School created an Outdoor Classroom project under the guidance of their educators, Jennifer Goldsmith and Patrik Renaud, as well as an Algonquin elder.
Students designed and constructed stained glass mosaics while incorporating lessons on Indigenous perspectives and views they learned throughout the semester. In their designs, the students included images and ideas demonstrating their learning about the Seven Grandfather Teachings, the Medicine Wheel, and the importance of the circle and balance commonly found in First Nations, Metis, and Inuit teachings. The students were taught how to use mosaic cutters and pick stained glass to complement their designs. They also worked collaboratively and with a common purpose toward reconciliation. The technical skills and life lessons inspired by Indigenous teachings will be transferable throughout their education and beyond.
A student-led opening ceremony was held in June, coinciding with the Summer Solstice giving the event even more significance. Students welcomed guests and explained the importance of the design of the Outdoor Classroom, including the circle shape and the four pillars that hold the sacred medicines often recognized by First Nations (sweet grass, cedar, sage, and blueberries). The ceremony included a special smudging led by a student from the Assiniboine Nation.
The Outdoor Classroom brought together students from the Tech Department, Art Department, and Contemporary Studies classes. English students were also invited to participate in the opening ceremony. The whole school community can now enjoy a beautiful and culturally significant space, a small but powerful step toward reconciliation. This unique experience allowed educators to deeply entrench classroom teachings into experiential learning at its most powerful.