Teacher Laura Sewid hands out information to board of education chair Richard Franklin about the new First Nations kindergarten immersion program. Photo by Mike Chouinard/Campbell River Mirror

Sixteen registered for Indigenous kindergarten program in Campbell River

Program uses four seasons model and incorporates wildlife wisdom and cultural activities

School District 72’s new Liq’wala/Kwak’wala kindergarten is ready to go with 16 students registered to start in September.

The work to develop the immersion program is well underway, according to Laura Sewid, who will be the teacher for the program when it opens at Ripple Rock Elementary.

So far, she has been working one day a week with Dana Roberts, who will work with Sewid in the classroom, and Emily Aitken, who is the language advisor, to put together a curriculum for the program.

“That’s an exciting team of people around me,” she told trustees at a recent board of education meeting. “I’m not the language piece, but I’m so happy to be in the room because I’ll be able to learn it as well.”

The curriculum will be delivered using the model of the four seasons and will incorporate wildlife wisdom and cultural activities.

“Everything for each planning sheet is by the season,” she said, as she handed out copies to board members and senior staff.

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Students will focus on core competencies in the classroom, and their English literacy skills will be developed in parallel to their oral language skills in Liq’wala/Kwak’wala.

For Sewid, the program offers her a chance to integrate professional with personal life.

“This is a chance for me to dream what’s possible and now to create it,” she said. “My whole life has prepared me for this, ultimately.”

As a mother, she wishes the kindergarten program had been around for her children. Twenty-five years ago, she married into a First Nations family and her father-in-law is a hereditary chief. She has absorbed the culture over that time, planning pot-latches and learning much from her elders.

“I actively worked to be with elders…. I used to spend a lot of time sitting with the old ladies,” she said.

People now ask her about protocol and button blankets because of her experience.

Sewid was excited to talk about the inception of the program as well as running into her idol, Chief Dr. Robert Joseph, of Reconciliation Canada, also the person who gave Sewid her native name when she married. She had been meeting with assistant superintendent Nevenka Fair and district principal of Indigenous education Greg Johnson about the immersion program when she saw Joseph in the hallway.

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She took it as a sign of her future with the program as Joseph asked her what he could do to help her.

“I know him as Bobby Joe. Bobby Joe and my father-in-law were best friends,” she said.

Sewid also started a project called Wildlife Wisdom three years ago, and she can integrate this material into the curriculum by blending concepts around the four animals she focused on and their traits into the work with the seasons. She also ties these in with concepts in other areas such as math, science and social studies.

“The other thing that’s awesome is that we’ll able to do more cultural activities,” she said.

Following the presentation, trustee Kat Eddy, who had visited Sewid’s classroom, commended her on her work and the atmosphere she creates.

“I think that you are a great fit to launch this program,” she said.