Cowessess school adds land-based learning program
- EFN Staff | September 24, 2019
Students at a southern Saskatchewan school are given a chance to learn more out of their classroom and out onto the lands which is part of their school curriculum. Cowessess Community Education Centre has introduced a Land-Based Learning program in their school this year which was spearheaded by teacher, Andrew Starblanket. It was something that Delrae Sparvier, who is in grade 8, didn’t expect to be a part of but is thankful that he is gaining plenty of skills such as sage picking.
“I am learning respect and patience,” he said. “I am happy our community has this now. Before Andrew came to school, we didn’t have any of this.”
Sparvier is looking forward to gaining more skills on how to live off the land and he hopes to put his skills to use outside of school. Sparvier owes his gratitude to Starblanket who is not only a teacher but a cultural target behaviour teacher where he takes his students of various ages out of school to learn how to be elder helpers, serve at feasts, picking medicines and participate in ceremonies such as a sweat lodge.
“This is to show people that come from not so healthy homes that there is a healthy choice for them to make,” he said. “Sometimes their families aren’t culturally connected so that’s kind of my goal is to show them to have those skills and knowledge to prepare them.”
In the winter months, Starblanket shows them how to pick certain willows to make headache medicine and hand games amongst others. Storytelling is another big part of the program that Starblanket wants to put back into his students’ lives – a tradition that dates to time immemorial. Every January, he takes his students to Ministikwan for four-days to go dog-sledding, ice-fishing, snaring, trapping, learning how to start a fire with damp wood and other life skills and cultural activities.
“This is all curriculum based. So, sage picking. I took the curriculums out of health, science and social in Grade 6 and tied them to an activity I did such as protocol, the importance, and [teaching them] how to clean the sage.
Throughout the year, Starblanket will be including other grades to be a part of the Land Based Learning program and hopes to target younger students who are also eager to participate.
“Land based learning is important here [at Cowessess school]. The community support is so strong that it makes it easier to do so,” he said.