Portable turned into a special 'Gathering Place'

Tue. Apr. 29/14

For students Peyton Wyse and Christine Good, members of the Snuneymuxw First Nation, the portable at École Pauline Haarer is now a great place to interact and "break the ice" with other students at their school.

Thanks largely to Susan Brown, an aboriginal education assistant, and principal Mike Lundine, the portable at the school is in the process of being transformed into a "Gathering Place" where students from all backgrounds can come together and learn about aboriginal customs and culture in an informal setting.

Lundine said because the portable classroom is situated in a "high-traffic area" on the school's grounds, it was considered an ideal location for students to stop for a visit, do some traditional crafting, hear a story or two or just catch up on some homework.

He said that while École Pauline Haarer has 25 students of First Nations ancestry, it's hoped that the gathering place attracts all students at different times during the school year.

Brown, who shares her time with Gabriola and Hammond Bay elementary schools during the week, said she is "very grateful" that she and the students have been provided the space for their activities. She has been busy decorating the portable with button blankets, native carvings and images of aboriginal learners.

"I also spend time working on crafts, like beading and knitting, with the students because it is part of the First Nation experience and allows for us to work together as a community, in which we are all equal, without them focusing on me as a teacher," said Brown, whose background is a combination of the Heiltsuk and the Awikinaxv First Nations.

"These types of activities when I was in school taught me leadership skills, how to be successful in school and were vital to who I have become today."

In conjunction with the setting up of the gathering place, the school's Grade 7 students are researching such aboriginal topics like the residential schools and the history of the Metis in preparation for Aboriginal Day on June 18.

Christine said she finds the new gathering place a "great place" to interact with other students at her school and provides opportunities for them to get to know each other better.

"We learn from each other and that's kind of cool," she said.