• Fair Chance Learning

Indigenous Institute Blends Tradition & Tech to Preserve Anishinaabe Teachings

Updated: Oct 9, 2019

Every October, Seven Generations Education Institute (SGEI) hosts its annual Fall Harvest, an immersive two-day event that demonstrates to local students how Anishinaabe people traditionally prepared for the winter months. Fall Harvest, or Dagwaagini-maawindoosijigewin, acknowledges and celebrates the rights of the Anishinaabe people outlined in Treaty #3 including food-sovereignty and self-sufficiency.

Like years before, local elders, volunteers and SGEI staff demonstrate wild rice preparations, tell traditional stories, sing at the Grandfather drum and cook bannock on a stick. Unlike in years passed, Fall Harvest 2019 incorporated virtual reality to help preserve these vital cultural teachings and enrich the education of our students.

To do this, we’ve partnered with Fair Chance Learning (FCL) to create virtual reality lessons surrounding our four wild rice stations. Titus, FCL’s Director of Industry Education Partnerships, filmed as elders instructed how to roast, dance on, winnow and finish wild rice. With this footage, we intend to create virtual reality lessons for students for years to come.

Student dancing on wild rice to loosen the husks from the grain.

These culturally enriched VR lessons facilitate fun and innovative ways of learning and provide students with first-hand knowledge in a way that’s both accessible and available throughout any season. With the help of VR, students of any ability can access a library of teachings from the comfort of our classrooms. These lessons enable us to provide hands-on experiential, land-based learning; something not traditionally provided at other mainstream institutes.

Most importantly, capturing traditional teachings via virtual reality enables us to preserve this knowledge for generations to come. Because land-based teachings like harvesting wild rice, cultivating natural medicines and crafting birch-bark baskets aren’t passed down in a classroom, it’s important that we preserve them that way too. We hope that presenting cultural content to students in a dynamic and immersive way will encourage younger generations to be excited by and dig deeper into Anishinaabe culture.

Students winnowing wild rice to separate husks from the grain.

In the future, we hope to continue this avenue of experiential learning and expand our library of virtual lessons. We believe that as an Ingidenous institute, we play a major role in passing on Anishinaabe history, heritage and tradition and it’s our responsibility to make that information both accessible and engaging for our young learners.

About the Authors:

Kim Kirk is the Associate Director of Student Success and Program Support Teacher at Seven Generations Education Institute and a mother of four. Kim, along with her First Nation Support Program team, provides literacy, numeracy and retention supports to education staff at five First Nations schools in Treaty Three. Kim is very passionate about using technology to enhance education and intends to lean on that perspective as she works towards her principal’s qualifications.

Christine Woolsey is an IT Director with Seven Generations Education Institute in Fort Frances, Ontario. She brings 17 years of experience with networking, administration, and integrating technology into education for First Nation students. Christine’s focus is working on First Nation connectivity, and bringing technology into the classrooms for First Nation students to be given equal learning opportunities. Working with a team of SGEI staff, Christine is focusing her efforts on opening their first Makerspace coming September 2019.