Students at the Kenora Catholic District School Board are getting elements of a traditional lifestyle, along with their classroom education. The director of education for the Kenora Catholic District School Board, Phyllis Eikre, says the two go together.

Learning how their ancestors lived off the land is part of the curriculum, and it's not just for children from First Nations.  

"It's an experiential learning program that combines aboriginal culture and language for students, because we feel it's important that all students know that culture well," she said.

Earlier in the school year, Eikre acknowledges Sydney Flett from St. Thomas Aquinas was chosen to advise the Minister of Education on matters related to aboriginal education.

After the release of the Truth and Reconciliation report, aboriginal education is very much under the microscope.Survivors from the residential school era shared how they were taken from their homes, then forbidden to speak their language or learn their culture.

Today, at the Kenora Catholic District School Board, the director of education lists a number of changes they've made, in order to help accommodate First nations children.

"We work very hard to empower all of our students to be leaders, because we believe every student is a leader. In our schools, we hope to be creating a new generation of adults going out, where we understand each other's culture and we understand each other well enough where we have that good solid respect for each other," she said.

In recent years, the board has offered language classes, as well as a northern studies program that includes hands-on experience with the traditional Anishinaabe lifestyle.

For many years now, schools in the district have also been working with parents and First Nation elders, on ways to help First Nations and aboriginal students more successful in the classroom.

For more than a decade, this has included asking parents to voluntarily self-identify students. This has helped educators track the results of academic testing over their career in the classroom, in an effort to determine which strategies work best. 

The board has also held assemblies, where Catholic, secular and Ojibway values were compared. Some of them -- such as honesty, courage and love -- were recognized as Christian values, as well as Grandfather teachings, which were easy for staff, students and parents to understand.

For more information:
Kenora Catholic District School Board - Director's report
Truth and Reconciliation Commission - Interim report
A focus on residential school survivors