New Year, New Ideas for Legacy Schools!

A new year brings new ideas and inspiration. Our reconciliation journey is far from over, and there’s no better way to get inspired than to share ideas with one another. In December, Legacy Schools educators and leaders gathered online from various places in Canada to share the work they’ve been doing and to ask questions about how they can do this work in meaningful ways. We dedicated this newsletter to sharing those ideas, and we hope it continues to inspire the change needed in schools, groups, and communities to make Canada the place it should be.

Sharing Circle Ideas & Resources: Elementary Classes

Sarah Mazzei and her grade 6/7 students held a fundraiser for DWF last spring.

Sarah Mazzei, Grade 6/7 Teacher, Ridgeway Elementary, North Vancouver, BC and DWF Educator Advisor hosted our first Virtual Sharing Circle in December for elementary-level teachers and leaders. Sarah’s presentation delved into the journey her classroom has taken as part of the Legacy Schools program. Here are some of the ideas she suggests for enhancing your classroom:

Create a wholistic, interdisciplinary unit that:

  • Celebrates Indigenous cultures,
  • educates students about residential schools through Chanie Wenjack’s story,
  • and empowers students to take action towards reconciliation.

It was recommended to find Indigenous guest speakers, books, videos, and other materials that have been created by Indigenous people to include in your lessons.

Lean on Your Own Strengths

St. Bonaventure Elementary School, Brampton, ON students made a mural entitled “We Now Know”.

In younger grades, you can use colour, symbols, and images to break down themes in different songs within the Secret Path. Sarah suggested a variety of ways you can use the Secret Path in your classroom, such as poetry, a graphic novel, musical album, film, or artwork.


Lessons focused on colour, symbolism, and images were shared, as well as the four part story wheel, and a mixed media project based on George Littlechild and Jane Ash Poitras.She suggested adding the Learning Principals Poster to your classroom wall.You can also map Chanie’s Journey with your students. Lessons and worksheets are available here thanks to Sarah.

Pictured here are the mainstay books Ms. Devlin uses when talking with young children.Colleen Devlin, a K/1 teacher at Ecole Puntledge Park in Courtenay BC shared how she incorporates residential school teachings into the classroom for very young students. Read her piece, Every Child Deserves to Feel Loved: Teaching young children about residential schools.

Legacy Schools Resources by Grade

Elementary: Resources for Schools

Here are some resources that you can use as part of your teaching:

Recommended Books:

Last fall, kindergarten teacher Sabrina Donamo, from James Short Memorial in Calgary, AB shared her experience with very young students and how they connected with Chanie during their Walk for Wenjack.Planning your Walk for Wenjack | Downie Wenjack Fund (@ 15:42min)

How does a non-Indigenous teacher incorporate an Indigenous perspective?

Having someone who is Indigenous and knowledgeable to introduce these topics is helpful. If your school board or district has an Indigenous education department you can contact them for assistance. Using lessons, resources, books, documentaries, and films by Indigenous content creators is an easy way to bring Indigenous voices to the youth you are working with.Doing things in a careful and educated manner is imperative and taking the steps to ensure Indigenous perspective is included in every classroom is so important. We all need to take these steps to be inclusive otherwise youth will never learn.ImagineNATIVE offers an amazing guide that provides cultural principles, and best practices for filmmakers, and production companies when depicting Indigenous content on screen, and how communities can be collaborative partners. It’s an excellent resource that can be applied to teachers and youth leaders when including First Nations, Inuit and Métis perspective in lessons for students and youth. (Online Screen Protocols & Pathways ENFR)

Aakdehewin means bravery in Anishinabe and is represented by the bear.GC Huston in Southampton, ON created school shirts with input from Indigenous advisors to include the Seven Grandfather Teachings as part of the school’s culture. They also paint a classroom door each year with students and provide a plaque beside the door describing what the door means.Artist Ambassador, Patrick Hunter, also offers painting workshops where he teaches Seven Grandfather Teachings while painting.Our DWF LIVE sessions cover a variety of teachings and will continue with new sessions each month. Sign your class up for a camera spot to speak directly with Indigenous artists, writers, musicians, and more.

Sharing Circle Ideas & Resources: Secondary & Teens

Johna Hupfield creates an inclusive space where students feel supported, valued and can see themselves reflected, which is important in all classrooms and learning spaces. Students painted the front of the school with feathers to honour the victims of residential schools.Johna Hupfield is a high school teacher at Parry Sound High School in Ontario, and a DWF Educator Advisor. Johna hosted our first Virtual Sharing Circle in December 2021 for secondary-level teachers and leaders. She had these suggestions for teaching about reconciliation in your classroom:

  • Aim to build a better experience for students than what she had in high school (especially for Indigenous youth).
  • Show how much change can come about through hard work that comes from your heart.
  • Former students can act as role models (continuing work to support education and safe spaces).
  • Find a connection to reconciliation — for some it’s finding and recognizing who you are.
  • Rethink graduation ceremonies to be inclusive of local Indigenous culture.
    • When youth graduate, local women bead and provide a feather for the graduating students.
  • During periods of remote learning “language bundles” were provided to students which included masks, a hat, stickers, writing book, their own language manual, and language book.

Check out their student Instagram for highlights of the impressive work being done. Saugeen Senior School staff and students joined the sharing circle to speak about making their new Reconciliation Hall. They highlighted:

  • Having material items and information displayed so guests understand the importance of local Indigenous culture in their school and community.
  • The hall started with a table which was made by construction students and painted by students with alumni and Artist Ambassador Emily Kewageshig’s guidance.
  • This is not linear work, there is a need to ensure all information is accurate, so it will continue to evolve and grow as more is be added and included.
  • Indigenous staff and students feel represented in their school now; it feels good to walk in and show the space to others.
  • It was important to pay students for their work.
  • There were concerns about making sure everything was correct so they continue to work with Elders, Knowledge Keepers and community.

Here is a link to the opening of Reconciliation Hall.

Scott Garbe from County Day School was also present and shared the work they’ve done through art and drama. Their script Ahead by a Century is free for Legacy Schools to use in their own productions. Here’s the Short Doc about the production. Their most recent play focuses on the environment.Shannon Agowissa shared the work their school is doing as a new sign-up to the Legacy School program. She hosted a PD session for schools in her district.

Students at Sioux Mountain Public School create animals that would have accompanied Chanie on his journey.Harriet Visitor, DWF Board member and Chanie Wenjack’s niece, joined both the senior and elementary sessions to learn more about the amazing work that is happening and share what she is doing in her own classroom.Harriet teaches elementary students and always connects students’ understanding to empathy and caring. One of her lessons focuses on asking the students if Chanie was alone on his journey. When they realize he was not, and that many animals were there with him, students get to explore the relationships between nature and people. Students then create clay animals which lead into lessons on the Seven Sacred Grandfather teachings.Classroom Pen PalsIf anyone would like to contribute to a Pen Pal program, Ms. McBean’s grade 7/8 class in Calgary, AB would love to connect with other Legacy School students in different parts of Canada. If you’d be interested in having your class share their reconciliation journey with another school, let us know and we’ll be happy to connect you.

Secondary: Resources for Schools

Recommended Books:

Upcoming DWF Live & Events


Waubgeshig Rice | Author and JournalistWaubgeshig Rice is an author and journalist originally from Wasauksing First Nation. He’s written three works of fiction, most recently the national bestseller Moon of the Crusted Snow. He lives in Sudbury, Ontario with his wife and two sons.February 24th, 1pm ET

Register here

Send us your ReconciliACTIONS

We love seeing and sharing what Legacy Schools are doing all the time! Send us your reconciliACTIONs for a chance to be featured in our ReconciliACTION guidebook, in next year’s Legacy School materials and other DWF communications!

Submit Yours Here

Share your ReconciliACTIONS on social media

We love seeing the change you’re making – and so does the DWF community! Share your photos and tag us on social media @downiewenjack and we’ll try our best to share with our networks.