Last year you helped me bring the story of Chaine Wenjack to my students. It’s certainly not an easy story to tell, but like so many of your stories, it’s an important one. It’s perhaps the most important story you ever told. I’m saddened by your passing, but comforted in knowing that your stories will continue to shape and change lives….
When I first watched Gord Downie’s Secret Path I was moved beyond words. I knew I had to invite Chanie into my class but I wasn’t sure how. I reached out to our Native Resource Teacher, Mrs. Fiddler for advice, guidance and support.
Part One- Monday and Tuesday- A Journey to Canada’s Past
Over the past two days Mrs. Fiddler has taken us on a journey…into Canada’s past. She took my class to places I never could have. She shared stories that I didn’t even know existed. She brought authentic artifacts that my students could hold, feel and smell. Mrs. Fiddler brought us back in time and helped us to learn, understand and question.
As my students travelled, they took “field notes” in their Adventure Logs. Their notes reflected their learning and understanding. They also listed many questions. Some were answered and many remain unanswered. This morning we debriefed to share our learning and our questions. I pushed my students to reflect on their journey and to dig deep and share their take aways.
We also added our learning from our journey to Canada’s Past with Mrs. Fiddler to our Digital Adventure Logs. Below are a few examples.
At the end of the day I told my students that I was anxious for them to meet a young boy who I had recently met. Chanie would be visiting our class the next day. They were ready to walk his Secret Path….
Part Two- Wednesday to Friday- Walking With Chanie
It’s Friday and I finally have a chance to reflect on and share where we’ve travelled over the last three days. It has been a very emotional journey. I am so proud of my students for honouring Chanie and becoming so impassioned with his story. I’m also grateful for having Tesa Fiddler as our guide.
On Wednesday my students came to school with mixed emotions about travelling back in time to 1966 to meet Chaine at the Cecilia Residential Residential School in Kenora, Ontario. They were excited, anxious and nervous all at the same time. So was I. Mrs. Fiddler arrived back in our classroom with a warm smile and a comfortable disposition. We were all in good hands. She set the stage for our journey by sharing her own family’s personal experience with residential schools and a discussion ensued about some of the lasting impacts. Tesa went on to talk about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and how Canada is trying to right past mistakes. She introduced my class to Gord Downie and many “light bulbs” went on when she mentioned his band, The Tragically Hip. Many of their parents were fans and by default, so were my students. Mrs. Fiddler played a clip from Gord’s last concert singing New Orleans is Sinking (one of my favourites) and then shared the part of the concert where he addressed our Prime Minister.
With our guide leading the way, Mrs. Fiddler handed out the Secret Path novels and copies of the lyrics. With our adventure logs in hand and the video cued on the SMART Board, our journey began. My students walked with Chanie away from his residential school and along the railway tracks from Kenora in his quest to reach his home at Ogoki Post some 400 kilometers away. Chanie never completed his journey. However, Gord Downie’s lyrics and Jeff Lemire’s illustrations have allowed us to walk with Chanie, to learn, feel, question and…understand. Chaine, you have taught us more than you will ever know.
We will never forget you.
My students spent Thursday and Friday continuing to reflect on their journey. They compiled all of their learning as a chapter in their Digital Adventure Logs.
Part 3- Secret Math Path
As well, we embarked on a Secret Path Math Journey. Feel free take on the math challenges with your students.
My students were inspired to do something to honour Chaine and keep his spirit, memory and story alive. I challenged them to take on their own M.A.D Projects. I was touched by my students’ ideas. Watch for updates as they put their ideas into ACTION!
Part 5- #WalkwithChanie
Today we started an art project inspired by Chanie. My direction to my students was to create an art piece that fit the title #WalkwithChanie. My students chose the medium and how they wished to create their piece. Most used the iPads to view and listen to the Secret Path again. Many of my students sang along with the lyrics. Join our ‘Walk with Chanie!
Please read my follow up blog post “WHAT IF we #TeachLikeGord?”
The 1967 McClean’s story of Chanie Wenjack: The Lonely Death of Chanie Wenjack