| May 07, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - May 7, 2009 Aboriginal education initiativeBy Jeff Green

Marcie Webster with students from St. James Catholic School.

Marcie Webster has been bringing her Algonquin heritage to playgroups for pre-school children through the Ontario Early Years Centre for a few years, and starting in 2007 she teamed up with kindergarten teachers in some local schools to bring Aboriginal teachings into the classroom.

The Limestone, and Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic school boards entered into a joint Aboriginal education initiative last year, and among the projects being sponsored through that initiative are the monthly classroom visits that Webster makes to area schools.

Last month, she brought an environmental message to the elementary students at St. James Catholic School on an auspicious day, April 22 (Earth Day).

“The students take well to the message Marcie brings,” said Steve Kennedy, who teaches the primary grades at the school, “and she has developed a rapport with them over time”.

Madeliene Tarasick, a retired principal and administrator with the Limestone Board, has been spearheading the Aboriginal initiative for the two boards.

In addition to Marcie Webster's program, the initiative has funded several other projects. These include establishing an Aboriginal speakers bank, visits to local schools by storyteller and elder Jane Chartrand, and a performance by Shannon Thunderbird for 2000 students, including those from the northern schools in the Limestone Board.

As well, the initiative includes a self-identification program, which encourages students in the schools within both boards with Aboriginal heritage to take the step of self-identifying as an assertion of that heritage. This is an on-going program that Tarasick said has thus far been more enthusiastically received in high schools in the City of Kingston than in the rural areas.

“The initiative is something that is long overdue, and there are many hurdles to overcome,” said Tarasick, “but it will continue to grow and expand dramatically over the next few years.”

The educational initiative has been carried out in conjunction with Aboriginal communities throughout the region. 

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