H’a H’a Tumxulaux is a Sinixt term that means Sacred Land.
H’a H’a Tumxulaux is also the name given to an innovative outdoor education program that began this spring in the Kootenay Columbia Learning Centre (KCLC).
The Aboriginal component is so novel that H’a H’a was picked from a list of 47 applicants to be the case study in the 2016 Indigenous “Innovative that Sticks’ research program. Sponsored by the Canadian Education Association (CEA), students, teachers and program leaders will be interviewed and videographed by the CEA for a final product that will share successes of the Trail-based program and help other educators in getting their own ‘innovations to stick.’
Inspiring students and leading the way for future programs are key messages, but the program is also receiving another kind of nod. KCLC is receiving a $10,000 cheque today (Tuesday) at 10:30 a.m., courtesy of sponsor State Farm Canada, to extend the reach of the H’a H’a program.
“We held a call for applications (for) a program called ‘Indigenous Innovation that Sticks,’” Max Cooke, CEA director of communications, told the Trail Times. “The point of it was to focus on one successful indigenous learning program that we could research and share lessons learned with other educators in our national network.”
A jury of indigenous scholars and innovations experts selected the KCLC program from the list of cross-country submissions, this week a research team and CEA President Ron Canuel, are heading to Trail from Toronto.
Cooke, along with a CEA researcher and videographer, will be on site for three days of indepth interviews that will begin post-ceremony.
“We are going to get the ball rolling on the research element,” he said. “The researcher will be coming back for a return trip, our goal is to produce a report with some videos that basically outline much of the process the educators went through to get this program off the ground,” he clarified. “And also, it deals with a specific audience of kids that, for lack of a better term, have slipped through the cracks.
“I think the jury was just so intrigued by the traditional practises of this program that it was an irresistible one for them to select and want to learn more about.”
Planning the Tuesday ceremony fell to the H’a H’a students with Marilyn James (Sinixt elder) spearheading the event, other Aboriginal elders from the regional have also been invited.
Currently, 18 students are enrolled in the the H’a H’a Tumxulaux Outdoor Education Program.
KCLC Principal Nathan Robinson says the program is typically designed for students in grades 7-9 (15 years or younger) but there is room for outliers – one Grade 6 and one Grade 11 student are part of the class make up.
“Our goal is to build student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy, and mutual respect,” Robinson said. “We will use a holistic learning approach by focusing on Connectedness and Relationships to oneself, family, community, language, culture and the natural world.”
Lessons are completed in “units” and include: Awareness of History, Engagement with the Land, Nature, the Outdoors, The Power of Story and Traditional Teaching.
“Our program entails a traditional Aboriginal education component, with studies in ethnobotany, bird and animal identification, bush shelter-building, cooking meals on an open fire, fire making, outdoor safety and many more exciting cultural components,” Robinson noted. “And students will be transported by the program van to various West Kootenay locations for hiking, biking, canoeing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, geo caching and much more.”
A teacher, child and youth care worker and aboriginal support worker are integral components.
“Programs like this are vital to address the needs of our student population and to better engage first nations and non First Nations students in their learning,” Robinson shared. “The changes we have seen in our students in this program are incredible.”