Instead of writing a term paper, University of Northern British Columbia student Sharon Brewer was able to tell stories and paint with children at Immaculate Conception School in Prince George.
Brewer was one of four students in Global and International Studies 298: Globalization and Religion who chose an alternate assignment to the traditional paper this semester. Instead, they researched Aboriginal creation stories and developed an interactive presentation for children in Grades 3 to 5.
“I loved being so hands-on with the children. I feel that teaching them also reinforces my learning,” Brewer says. “We learned so much about the importance of respecting and learning about different creation stories. This class taught me about different interpretations of creation, and allowed me to introduce these new interpretations and perspectives to the children.”
Brewer along with fellow students Tandia Wallace-Hawken, Stephanie Martin and Cleo Whetter each researched one origin story originating from different regions of Canada. Then they developed a fun and engaging presentation, with the children encouraged to act out parts of the stories with them. Finally, they helped the children create a mosaic representing each of the stories they told.
While the children were painting tiles for the mosaics the UNBC students were able to speak with them and answer their questions about the creation stories.
“The art was a great way for the children to express what they took out of the presentation,” Martin says. “Some of the paintings may have been similar, but when asking the children why they chose to paint that, their answers were all different and showed a connection with the story.”
From the Tahltan in British Columbia to the Mi’k Maq in the Maritimes, the students chose to share creation stories from coast to coast. Martin, who is of Mi’k Maq ancestry, was able to learn about her heritage during the research process.
“By researching the creation stories, I was able to educate myself on my family in the process,” she said. “What stuck out to me the most was the emphasis on family and how although aboriginal families and cultures differ around Canada, they all are connected according to the Mi'k Maq people."
In addition to researching and presenting the stories, the students also took time to write reflective journals on the experience.
“During the research of my story, the most important thing that struck me was the heavy reliance on nature,” Whetter said. “Because of how important Aboriginal relationships with the land are, it was important for me to include that in my presentation. “Whether it was a relationship with an animal, a plant, or with the universe, all of the creation stories presented to the children showed it in some way. It was the main focus of our presentation, and we wanted to accurately depict that to the children, so that they could convey through their art the understanding of the material.”
Instructor Stephanie Powell-Hellyer was happy to facilitate the project and encouraged the students be creative in how they approached the topic.
“It was wonderful to see the students evolve in their ideas while preparing to present to elementary school students,” she said. “The smaller class sizes at UNBC provide opportunities to get to know our students, what might interest them in their academic journey, and how alternate term projects might be of benefit to them.”
Although the assignment was different from the typical essay, the students found the project to be rich in learning opportunities with a rewarding outcome, according to Wallace-Hawken.
“This was a unique final project that gave us the opportunity to share knowledge, create connections in the community and work with some wonderful children.”
Above: UNBC student Cleo Whetter interacts with a student at Immaculate Conception School.