Just a little less than a year ago water connected my class and I to Josephine Mandamin.
As of today, one hundred and ninety-three classes from around the Great Lakes, across Canada and throughout the world have committed to learning about, adopting, protecting and walking for a body of water in honour of Nokomis, the original Water Walker.
Classes who have joined the Junior Water Walkers have taken up their own water inquiries and, like Josephine always suggested, are “going with the flow” as they let the the four pillars: learn, adopt, protect and walk guide them in their inquiries. Since Josephine was Anishnaabe and followed many sacred customs, traditions and ceremonies around water walking, Junior Water Walker classes are also connecting with and establishing relationships with their Indigenous community knowledge keepers as we work to protect water and honour Josephine, who recently passed away at age 77.
For World Water Day, I wanted to share our Junior Water Walker journey, resources and ideas and invite other classes to join us.
This pillar simply encourages people to learn about water; how it is the giver of life and the one thing that connects us all. Through the inquiry process, students will come to understand that water is precious and needs to be protected.
Paddle to the Sea At the beginning of the school year, I read Paddle to the Sea to my students. It’s a book written in 1942, about an Indigenous boy who carves a small wooden replica of himself in a canoe and sets in in the headwaters of Lake Superior. The books follows the path the canoe takes, through the five Great Lakes, down the St. Lawrence, to its eventual destination, the Atlantic Ocean. This books gives students a historical reference to the Great Lakes and helps them understand just how important the lakes are. We also did a collaborative book study with other classes living on the Great Lakes. As well, the National Film Board’s classic film is another great resource.
The Water Walker A full length documentary film by naturalist, artist and film maker Bill Mason takes students on a canoe trip through the many rivers and lakes of Ontario’s wilderness. Mason also pays respect to and recognizes how the Anishnaabe people, who lived along the Great Lakes thousands of years before the European explorers arrived, keep their waters clean and pristine.
Blue Gold I use this Google Earth Voyageur Story which allows my students to take a virtual, current day trip through the Great Lakes to have the realize just how great the Great Lakes are but also to understand that they are at risk.
Google Earth Google Earth is also a great resource to help students explore any body of water from a global to local perspective. This incredible tool gives students a chance to explore water ways virtually.
Fort William Historical Park I took may students on a field trip to our local Fort William Historical Park to learn how important the Anishnaabe people were in the fur trade and about many of their traditions and customs. My students also understood the importance of the Great Lakes as the trading highway for the fur trade and the development of Canada.
Anishnaabe Scrapbook My students learned about the various Native cultures throughout Canada but taking the perspective of an Anishnaabe choild living on their land prior to European contact. As they created their digital scrapbooks, students also gained a strong understanding of how water and their relation to it had an impact on the Anishnaabe people.
The Story of Us In Canada, Truth and Reconciliation has become an important and integral part of our curriculum that can be woven through many different subject areas. The Story of Us, school friendly versions (view at your own discretion), has helped me tell the story of Canada, how water brought the Europeans to Turtle Island (North America) and forever changed its people.
Jill Heinerth Visit Our school community had the privilege of welcoming Canadian Geographic in Residence Explorer, Jill Heinerth to our school. She shared her experience as a world renowned cave diver and her concerns about water. My students also viewed her documentary “We are Water” and explored her website, full of incredible learning resources.
The UN’s Global Goals The UN’s Global Goals are an invaluable resource and one that every teacher should be familiar with. Goal 6, Clean Water and Sanitation and Goal 14, Life Below Water have been incredibly useful in our learning.
The Water Walker Book After all of our learning about water, in early December, I was fortunate to have Joanne Robertson, author of the Water Walker, visit my class again. Through Joanne and her children’s book “The Water Walker”, my students in this year’s class we introduced to Josephine Mandamin.
Unfortunately, due to Josephine’s failing health, she was not able to visit my class with Joanne. However, prior to the visit, at sunrise, I met Josephine, her husband Andrew, Joanne and Tesa Fiddler (our Board’s Native Resource Teacher) at Mission Marsh conservation area where Josephine held a short water ceremony. She smudged our copper bucket and drew water from Lake Superior to pass onto my class as they committed to becoming Junior Water Walkers. I am so grateful for that morning spent with Josephine. Under her direction, the water was carefully transported back to back to my class in the copper bucket and is now frozen in my freezer in mason jars awaiting of water walk in May.
Our Whole School Becomes Junior Water Walkers! With so much “water talk” and learning going on in our two oldest grades the younger classes and teachers became interested in joining the Junior Water Walkers initiative! Our older students made presentations to the younger ones to tell them all about Josephine Mandamin and what it means to be a Junior Water Walker. This has prompted every class in our school to undertaken their own water inquiries!
Water Life Sadly, Nokomis Josephine Mandamin passed away on February 22, 2019. Primitive Entertainment made “Water Life”, a water documentary featuring Josephine available for free for all to view learn about water, the need to protect it and the incredible Water Walker we know as Nokomis.
Connecting with a Water Walker I have been in contact with Andrew Mandamin, Josephine’s husband and he has recommended a local water walker. I will be making contact with her to have her help us make decisions about our water walk in May.
This pillar encourages classes to decide on a body of water in their community that they will adopt, help to protect in some way and eventually walk at during our water walks on Fridays in May.
Our school community is still deciding on the body of water we would like to adopt and help protect. We are thinking that we’d like to have our two original Junior Water Walker classes in grades 5/6 and 6 research possible water ways in our community to adopt. The thought is that we’d have the older students do persuasive presentations to the rest of the school community and have the kids vote on the body of water which we’ll adopt, thus giving them a voice and ownership. With that said, I need to insure the water that I have frozen in my freezer from Nokomis is honoured and returned to an appropriate water source. I’m not sure if it needs to be returned to Mission Marsh on Lake Superior or if it can be return to a river or smaller lake. There’s still so much to learn!
The idea of this pillar is to have kids understand how they can help to protect their adopted body of water which will lead to the protection of water in general.
Eco Superior Visit Our school community invited Eco Superior, a local community partner to help teach every student in our school about water conservation and protection.
M.A.D for Water Fair Our grade 5/6 and 6 classes have a tradition of hosting a M.A.D (Make A Difference) Fair in the spring each year. Our older students showcase their Make A Difference Projects science fair style, to share what they’ve done to make a difference from the local to international level. This year, their will be a water focused theme, where our oldest students will focus on making a difference for water. Many details are still being ironed out but the intent to have our eldest students inspire our youngest ones to become water stewards and protect water.
On one of the five Fridays in May, Junior Water Walker classes will walk together at their adopted body of water. Going to the water source is meant to be impactful and meaningful. As with every pillar, Junior Water Walker classes are encouraged to connect with Indigenous knowledge Keepers.
Our Walk On May 3 our entire school community will walk at our adopted body of water. We still are not sure which body of water we’ll adopt or the details of our walk. What has been established is that Joanne Robertson, author of “The Water Walker” and Josephine’s close friend will join us. As well, we will be reaching out to a local Water Walker for guidance. Tesa Fiddler, our Native Resource Teacher will also join and guide us as she always has. Eco Superior has also expressed interest in joining us on May 3.
***Update: Our Water Walk was a resounding success on May 3rd! Read about our walk titled “Water Walking”.
So there you have it! Although not a complete list of the steps and resources in our Water journey, I think it’s helpful to share and have other classes interested in, or already involved in the Junior Water Walkers know that each journey will be different, as it should be. What Josephine has told me is: “If it’s for the water, it’s for good”, “Go with the flow” and “Just do it.”
Thanks to each and every class out there for join us in honouring the incredible woman we have all come to know as Nokomis and for protecting the resource that connects us all…. Nibi….Water.