Teachers Offer Free Online Lessons During School Closures

How did our ancestors learn before the days of the internet and social media? This group of native Canadians aims to help kids find out.

Schools all over the world have closed due to the spread of Covid-19. Parents are pulling double duty as home school teachers, making sure their kids are still learning every day.

Thankfully, there are some great online resources that families can use to keep their kids from being glued to their phones and video games.

One of those resources is a series of virtual classes that are being taught by a group of educators across Canada who are indigenous, or native to Canada.

The teachers are taking turns going "live" on their Facebook pages and offering lessons geared toward different age groups and grade levels. In many cases the teaching focuses on topics that reach back to the students' ancestors and how they learned and communicated in the days before the internet and social media.

Elder Albert Scott teaches an online class about native language structure for 1st graders. Think Indigenous Online Ed/Facebook

"I wanted to offer these online Facebook, social media classes for parents who are at home with their kids, just so they can connect with their learning," Chris Scribe, one of the educators participating in the program, told CBC.

Scribe has been a teacher since 2005. He also heads the University of Saskatchewan's Indian Teacher Education Program (ITEP) and is the director and founder of 'Think Indigenous,' a conference that brings together Indigenous educators from across western Canada.

On Tuesday, Scribe taught his first lesson focusing on storytelling. The lesson was aimed at fourth graders and encouraged students to think about their own family and community services, much like native populations have been doing for generations.

Scribe even gave a shout-out to his son (a fourth grader) at the beginning of the lesson, who was sitting next to his dad, ready to learn right along with his internet peers.

"The best place to learn Indigenous knowledge is in our stories and in our communities, this is a cool time for that to happen," Scribe said.

Seven other indigenous teachers have signed up to teach lessons, including Curtis Vinish, a recent graduate of the Saskatchewan Urban Native Education Program (SUNTEP). Vinish teaches at St. Frances Cree Bilingual School in Saskatoon, Canada, where he is working on a land-based curriculum using the tribal Nehiyaw language.

His 20-minute lesson was directed at middle schoolers (grades 7-8) and offered helpful tips for stress management.

"We have never faced a situation like this before in modern society," Vinish said. "I think it's important to talk about mental health issues in our communities, especially with self isolation being recommended."

Vinish teaches at a bilingual school in Saskatoon, a city in Saskatchewan, Canada. Curtis Vinish/Facebook

Currently there are no high school classes available, but the teachers say they're working on adding some soon.

The online classes have already gotten rave reviews from students all over the world who tuned in on the first day of lessons.

"Wow!! Just had my kids watch in Temecula, California," LaSara Hernz commented. "Wonderful lesson on oral storytelling. Will definitely do the homework."

"We really enjoyed this! My son is in Grade 1 in Ontario and it was still super fun and useful for us," Frances Christine wrote.

What an awesome way for kids to stay engaged and learn about other cultures, all from the comfort of their own homes. Kudos to Scribe and the rest of the teachers for using their time off to #StartSomethingGood!

How can you start something good?

Check out the Think Indigenous - Online Indigenous Education K-8 Facebook page for the schedule of classes.

Classes are currently being "held" on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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