Wanuskewin partners with STF in developing bison herd curriculum
- NC Raine | October 23, 2019
Come this spring, students and teachers across Saskatchewan will have the opportunity to in a one-of-a-kind curriculum centred on bison.
Wanuskewin Heritage Park and the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation have partnered in developing a bison herd curriculum for Grade 4 and 5 students, which will follow with the introduction of a bison herd at Wanuskewin Heritage Park.
“As we come closer to the time when the bison are arriving, we wanted to capitalize on the educational aspect,” said Lamarr Oksasikewiyin, programs manager at Wanuskewin. “So we wanted to develop a curriculum focused on the bison that also aligns with the Saskatchewan curriculum.”
Starting in the spring of 2020, grade 4 and 5 students will learn, prior to coming to the park, about the history of bison, the Indigenous connection to bison, and why they are a keystone species. They will also learn about this particular herd of bison, who will come from Grasslands and Elk Island. Once arriving to the park, they will review what they’ve learned, then begin further conversations about how bison live and interact.
“We can have deeper conversations so that the students can walk away having a deeper appreciation for the animal and understand why Indigenous people revere the bison so much,” said Oksasikewiyin. “You can learn how to be a better society by watching the bison.”
This historic reintroduction of bison to the land at Wanuskewin was a unique teaching for the Saskatchewan Teacher Federation to provide students with something foundational to Saskatchewan.
“We were looking for ways to make impactful partnerships, something that would be beneficial to students across the province,” said James Winkel, Senior Communications Manager at Saskatchewan Teachers Federation.
“It became clear quite quickly that the ‘bison project’ would have meaningful impact and engagement in terms of not only the teaching profession, but something the students can connect with,” he said.
The bison centred curriculum also responds to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, said Winkel. The program is proposed to expand past grades 4 and 5, to a full kindergarten to grade 12 curriculum in the future.
“If there’s one thing we all want people to know, it’s how pivotal the bison were and how changes to their population effected different groups,” said Winkel. “They are really integral to the fabric of certain cultures here in Saskatchewan.”
The curriculum will share with students how sophisticated bison are in their communal ways of living, said Oksasikewiyin. These animals, he says, provides insights for how to live now.
“The takeaway should be that, as people, we all can still learn from the bison and need to go back to learning how to live amongst ourselves by watching the creatures who have been here long before us,” he said. “It’s important to know your past.”