While learning about the history and impact of residential schools, Georgia Park Elementary students crafted a button blanket that they presented to Homalco elder, Adeline Billows, during a special blanketing ceremony on May 5.
As a component of the school’s Aboriginal focus all of the classes, in an age appropriate manner, have been discussing and learning about residential schools, the impact they had on the students (and their families) and the significance of the button blanket in Aboriginal culture and tradition.
Keisha Everson, a district teacher and member of the K’ómoks First Nation, worked with the grade 4 and 5 students to teach them about the symbolism, construction and importance of button blankets and grade 3, 4 and 5 students were responsible for sewing the buttons onto the blanket. Button blankets are part of the traditional ceremonial dress for the First Nations people of the Northwest coast.
The blanket being made by the Georgia Park students bears the cedar tree of life design, selected by principal Kim Padington and teacher-librarian Mary Morrow, to symbolize that if, as a people, we look after our traditions and culture they will continue to live on.
“The blanket and its presentation is the conclusion of a year’s worth of integrated, project-based learning for Georgia Park students,” says school principal, Kim Padington. “This school project has incorporated all of the classes, from kindergarten to grade 5, and met curriculum learning outcomes at all grade levels.”
For example, in addition to the social studies component, students have applied math skills for calculating the spacing of the buttons and assembly of the blanket, as well as research and writing skills as they learn about the history of the residential schools and prepare the script for the blanketing ceremony. According to teacher-librarian Mary Morrow, the project also provided the school’s Aboriginal students with an increased sense of pride as their fellow students have a greater understanding and share in their excitement over such things as an aunt making someone their own personal button blanket or being presented with their first cedar headdress.