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Residential schools revisited

​A Grade 5/6 class at École Garden Grove School recently revisited a dark period of Canada's past with an extended inquiry project about the Residential School system.

The system, which began operation in the late-1800s, removed Indigenous children from their families and placed them in a residential school settings. The last government-run residential school closed its doors in 1996.

Students in teacher Brigitte Madder's class examined the Residential School system through an in depth inquiry project that focused on the "Four Cs" of 21st Century learning: critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity.

Students broke into four different groups to create different ways to impart their learning on fellow Garden Grove students.

"They wanted their presentations to be meaningful and share pertinent points about what happened to First Nations children who were removed from their homes and went through this process," Ms. Madder said.

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One group produced a video, while another group built a monolithic residential school that highlighted the classes' research and residential school facts. Another group built a stark teepee, left deliberately uncovered to signify the loss of culture experienced by Indigenous students in the Residential School system. The teepee and school models were built directly opposite each other in the classroom to highlight the contrast between the two worlds.

The last student group created an immersive performance piece for other Garden Grove students while they visited the classroom. Student performers wore simple black and white uniforms and were referred to by numbers rather than their names.

"Mrs. Madder was talking gibberish when the other kids visited our class, so they would know how it felt to be somewhere where they didn't know the language," said Grade 5 student Angilee Scott.

"We talked afterwards about what that was like, not being able to understand the language, because that's what happened to First Nations children," Ms. Madder said.

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Students finished the performance with a presentation of their research, including discussion about the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

"We carried it beyond that and talked about the reconciliation process, and the fact that over the past few decades there have been measures taken to restore culture…and that many First Nations people are very proactive about restoring their culture," Ms. Madder said.

Students said their inquiry project was an important undertaking.

"I think we should all learn more about it and what happened in Canadian history," said Grade 6 student Aiden Shandroski. "(The Residential School system) was bad and it shouldn't have happened."

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