Increasing Indigenous content in curriculum - the quest!

The Call

In travels across the Country, Darkspark’s arts educators hear teachers express frustration about curriculum, both in what they must teach, and in what is being left out. Non-Indigenous teachers additionally struggle with how to teach Canadian history in the “right” way.

Teachers are also challenged by the ‘new’ learning paradigm – most middle school students want to learn through technology and interactive multi-media in an uncharted and unprecedented way.

As well, once educators experience a Darkspark program, many express a desire to incorporate more arts-based learning into their classes.

These 3 factors prompted Darkspark, applying its methodology, to undertake using the powerful material it gathers from students to assist Canadian teachers and schools.

Answering The Call

Through the Four Directions Project, Indigenous students and Elders express their views on content to be taught in history classes, share their perspectives on the issues, and portray the impact of colonialism. The results of the Darkspark program in classrooms are presented by the students to their entire school and home communities. The rich and powerful messages - from talks with Elders, to the students’ writing and recording of songs - are documented in a variety of digital formats such as records, blogs, video, social media posts, etc. The Darkspark method is also being recorded.

Darkspark will mould this diverse archive that captures Indigenous perspectives into arts-based, interactive teaching resources that will assist Indigenous and non-Indigenous educators to respectfully and sensitively educate students on Canada’s history. Incorporating experiences and stories of Indigenous youth and Elders, from communities nation-wide, these resources will support the teaching of the challenging topics of residential schools, generational cycles, treaties, and more.

The teaching resources will align with provincial curriculae. They will be digital and include arts-based lesson plans, interactive multi-media, creative worksheets, and more. The comprehensive digital resource network will guide teaching methods, and also allow both educators and students to learn through immersion in a world of multi-media, pop culture, and creative expression.

By developing and disseminating a dynamic, integrated package that combines social, arts and tech-based online resources for history curriculum on the ‘settlement’ of Canada (its colonization), and the impact this history has had on Indigenous Peoples, Darkspark will address all 3 areas of concern that teachers express. Non-Indigenous and Indigenous students alike will benefit.

The Quest

Darkspark’s view is that the history of Canada’s colonization is not Indigenous history, but Canadian history. It affects us all. This history is difficult to teach well, and vital to understand. Without understanding, reconciliation of the past and healing for the future is impossible. With understanding there is hope.

Darkspark’s vision is to contribute to raising the level of understanding, respect and empathy for the impact of Canadian history on Indigenous Peoples, and stimulate new relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth, by facilitating informed cross-cultural conversations.

"...I have also reviewed the lessons and leaning plans that Melissa has developed for use in classroom visits, and I find (them) outstanding...." 

" I invited Darkspark's Melissa Larkin to present her work to our semi-annual conference for teachers working in Aboriginal education, Kimaacihtoomin e-Anishinaabek kikinoo’amaakeyak (beginning to teach in an indigenous way) held in June 2013. The goal of the conference is to make teachers aware of the best practices for including Aboriginal content, practices and pedagogies in their teaching and to invite the most inspiring teachers and examples to ignite the imagination of new teachers to take bold steps in bringing Aboriginal awareness to heightened levels. Melissa’s presentation was to my mind the highlight of the day. Many conference participants requested more information about her program and mentioned her by name in the conference evaluation forms. There were many tears during her presentation as they were truly moved by the power of the approach. Melissa shared the work of students she worked with including portions of their completed songs, poems, and artwork. I have also reviewed the lessons and learning plans that Melissa has developed for use in classroom visits and I find (them) outstanding. She has developed activities that engage a diversity of approaches to learning that ensure the most students find at least one way to relate to the material in a way that ensures it is remembered. Whether it’s an emotional, physical, mental or somewhat spiritual activity, her approach to varied instruction design includes leading examples of how education about indigenous issues can be carried out. I’m excited about her organization, the work that it does, and can’t speak highly enough about the calibre and integrity of its work."

- Jean-Paul Restoule, Associate Professor, Aboriginal Education - Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (University Of Toronto)