About 25 educators from across the province gathered in Fredericton July 11-12 for two days of professional learning about the benefits of including Indigenous games in the physical education curriculum.
The training goal was to promote inclusion in the public school system, while introducing or reconnecting students to recreational and sport activities that reflect the cultural heritage and traditions of First Nation communities.
Cole Wilson, a retired physical education consultant from Saskatoon, attended the sessions and served as keynote speaker. He said the training for educators, hosted by ASD-W, will help First Nations students feel more welcome at school, while also building on learning outcomes for all students taking part in physical education programs.
During the two days, educators were learning by doing - participating as a group in Indigenous games from the Eastern Woodlands such as relay, double ball, long ball, lacrosse, bone and toggle, stick and ring, hoop and dart, feather balance as well as traditional First Nations dancing.
Indigenous communities have a special bond with nature and many of their games were historically created to develop skills necessary for hunting and gathering food, while increasing physical activity, resilience, strength, coordination and agility.
"This can be an important learning experience for all students from physical, emotional, and social skills to spiritual well-being," Wilson noted. "Teaching is adapted to be culturally relevant and provide a holistic world view from the Indigenous lens."
Wilson said educators will continue to meet curricular outcomes, while challenging the school system to be more inclusive "so more kids can belong, engage and hold on." It's also a positive way to promote citizenship and social responsiblity.
"I've often found I'm not the only teacher in the room," he said. "My (First Nations) students have lessons too. What I learn from them makes me more culturally aware."