The students at Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation School continue to learn more through their land based learning program.
The school's Grade 7 class is now learning about snares. Students recently captured rabbits and learned the process behind cooking and cleaning their animals, all the way down to the prayers following the practice.
Justice Bearboy, one of the students who participate in the project said he enjoyed it, even though it was cold, and that his favourite parts were catching and eating the prey. He also said he respects more of what his ancestors had to go through to provide for the people around them.
“We (now know) how it felt when they were needing to (find) food way back then in the cold, and what they had to go through,” he said. “Using the snares to get food for their families.”
Bearboy also mentioned the food tastes better when you catch and prepare it yourself.
As they went through the process, each student was tasked with cooking on an open fire and making everything from bannock to muskeg tea, to rabbit ice cream with the animal's brains. Following the project, they took the food to the school bingo where they served it to their Elders.
Heyly Montana is another student that took part. She explained the different aspects involved in setting the traps, the different heights that needed to be set and likes the hands on approach, because it’s the traditional way to live.
“We have to look for rabbit trails,” she said. “We can’t step on the trails or else the rabbit will make a new trail, and you won’t catch anything.”
The teachers continue to meet with one another to figure out how they can weave the land-based hands on approach to each one of their curriculums. They write about their steps involved as an English exercise. By being outside, students connect with physical education. Students learn more about Indigenous traditions with the art of snaring rabbits and storytelling. They've taught other students what they've learned as well.
Bearboy said the challenge of catching the animals makes the project way more enjoyable for him and his classmates.
“It’s more of a challenge to catch (them),” he said. “It’s harder and more fun, and we like being outside.”
The Land-Based Learning Coordinator Delane Graham said students appreciate the hands-on process and know it would be a different learning system if they didn't attend a First Nations school. He added the skills will stick with the students throughout their lives.
“These are lifelong skills that our students will have and never forget,” he said. “How we connected with our curriculum in the school and building relationships. The students really embraced being outdoors.”
It wasn’t without a little adversity throughout the project, however. When the students' ride was a little late, they made good use of their extra time in the cold by learning how to make a fire. They gathered wood and material, using birchwood and dry grass.
The students also had some of their animals snatched up by a predator in the wild. They noticed some of the footprints surrounding the animal, and guessed it might have been a coyote.
The entirety of the project was brought together by giving thanks for their food and animals that were caught. Graham laid tobacco around where they caught the animal and prayed for it in a clean spot, making sure they were humble when they gave thanks to the Creator.
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