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Edcamp New West: Teachers launch conversations for national change

Engage Indigenous Perspectives: Students, educators and community members are invited to be part of the conversation for national change September 29, 2018…Sign up for Edcamp New West...


Engaging Indigenous Perspectives:  An ‘un-conference’ for everyone

Teachers at New Westminster Secondary School are taking the initiative to “start conversations” around engaging Indigenous perspectives in schools.

They’re doing it by launching Edcamp New West on Saturday, September 29 – a free ‘un-conference’ for educators, students and community members in the Lower Mainland and BC.  The event will be held at New Westminster Secondary School and runs from 8 to 12:30 p.m..

Edcamp NewWest: Engaging Indigenous Perspectives: Register here.


 A hunger for knowledge…

An edcamp is a participant-driven conference, meaning that conversations are geared to the topics of interest identified by those who attend – rather than led by guest speakers.

  • Conversations might look at teaching a unit on Ancient Haida civilization – as well as on Ancient Rome – as a way to open up ‘traditional’ approaches to curriculum.
  • It might mean asking how our schools can strengthen connections with local First Nations – or how to make the link between technology and Indigenous ways of knowing.
  • For some participants who are new to Canada, the key question could be how to improve minimal knowledge of Canada’s First Nations.
  • For others, the focus might be on ‘unpacking’ a colonialist upbringing to change their own perspectives.


Participants – who are coming from the Lower Mainland and beyond – are invited to submit suggested topics. These are then grouped into common themes for the Saturday event.

The Aboriginal Education staff at New Westminster Schools develops programs and supports for Aboriginal students. Here, they are celebrating district kindergarten, grade 8  and graduating high school students during the annual Qayqayt Honouring and Rite of Passage ceremony…

Feeding a hunger for  knowledge…

For New Westminster Secondary School (NWSS) organizers M.J. Hunt and Stacey Robinsmith, the Edcamp New West event is a chance to feed a pressing hunger for information – and confidence – among educators.

“This will be about what people in the room need to talk about,” said Robinsmith.


“There is a feeling of willingness and openness to engage, to be informed and to be respectful,” said NWSS art teacher M.J. Hunt. 


There is also a degree of fear and uncertainty in delivering indigenous content.

Hunt noted the quest for knowledge has been inspired by Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated the residential school system’s forced removal of 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Metis children from their families and communities for assimilation into the mainstream culture. More than 6000 children died.

Aboriginal culture and perspectives have also been integrated throughout all areas of learning in BC with the ongoing implementation of the province’s redesigned curriculum.

For teachers like Hunt, part of the process of addressing truth before reconciliation involves encouraging students through their art to understand their place in the fabric of Canadian society as either indigenous people, settlers, newcomers or visitors.

“We need to think about our own immigrant status – and to also look at the experience of colonization from Indigenous eyes,” she said.

Said Robinsmith, a high school humanities teacher: “We talk a lot in my social studies classes about perspectives:  Who tells the story? The lion and the lion hunter tell profoundly different narratives.”

As stated by Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, “Reconciliation is not an aboriginal problem, it is a Canadian problem.  It involves all of us.”