We felt our project: Building Brains through Storytelling and Cultural Teachings was quite successful. Our initial intent were to deliver the program to be delivered in three locations allowing to opportunity to reach a wider audience from all backgrounds. Our goals included the following:
- attract more First Nations (FN) people to our programs by offering a FN program (hearing a FN language and seeing a FN person leading it)
- make existing FN families feel more comfortable by seeing or participating in a FN program
- bring pride and acceptance to FN families by witnessing the interest in learning about FN culture by non-FN families as a means to bridge acceptance and create relationships through a common interest
- bring awareness to non-FN families through active participation in traditional activities, language, song & dance
- correct stereotypes and nurture understanding of FN culture
- support the brain development of our youngest learners through participation in traditional activities, language, song & dance this supporting the development of a variety of skills
Our foundation was a Cree language circle, which branched off to include additional stories, activities and experiences from other language and First Nations groups including: Metis, Lakota, Sioux, Salteaux and more. We engaged community by bringing in guest speakers and experts to demonstrate and showcase various parts First Nations culture weekly at three locations. Our focus was on delivering a program suitable to our youngest learners and their caregivers. All experiences encouraged participation and questions allowing opportunity for everyone to learn together. Participation in programs were free and everyone was welcome.
The outcomes of the project include expanding the membership of our centres to include a higher number of First Nation participants. Further, the program created quite a following of which many would participate in the experiences at multiple locations weekly. As all of our centres are located within schools we were able to able to share a number of experiences with the school students and teachers at one location. The project gave us the means to build our resource library at each space to have a larger variety of First Nations materials and teaching resources for each location. We were also able to share traditional storybooks with participants to use at home.
One of our regular visitors started coming with his mom when he was 4-5 months and is now 11 months; he now recognizes our project facilitator and waves “Tansi” when he sees her and he knows all the actions of the songs and claps when it’s over. Another young regular visitor who is about a year to a year and a half now recognizes our lead project facilitator when he sees her, he goes and sits in the programing area and waits for the program to start. For our lead facilitator on this project it has helped her to become more comfortable with public speaking in front of larger groups and feels more confident in sharing about her culture. She has been very honored that so many people from diverse backgrounds have been interested and engaged in learning about her First Nations culture and feels like we were able to begin bridging the gap in understanding of First Nations culture in our community.
Our lead facilitator also was able to observe pride another family felt when participating in the program; she observed it through their active participation in the songs and counting as well as when they would answer questions along with the facilitator.
Karen’s program originally called Cree Circle has had a built my son, Carson’s Cree vocabulary to the point that I am at least comfortable with basic greeting! We love going to the program as we have been going weekly since summer! Carson enjoys listening to the welcome song that Karen plays each week and sometimes multiple times! He is very attentive during the time with Karen listening to her storytelling! We also both very much enjoyed the flute player guest we had the pleasure of listening. I believe that being so young and having this opportunity to be exposed to a culture he otherwise may not have a chance to is very good for his future in our diverse society. I, myself has enjoyed learning not only simple words through song and play but also the culture that Karen brings along with her program. I have developed much more respect and knowledge towards this wonderful culture. I hope that Karen will continue to share and we will definitely continue to support her! Thank you so much for being part of Carson and my learning!