Not every teacher training program requires that students “must have valid passport,” but travel and experiential learning is what makes the K-12 STUDY CANADA Summer Institute so unique. At the end of June, fifteen teachers from Washington State, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Mexico met at the Center for Canadian-American Studies, at Western Washington University (our consortium partners), to attend the institute. This year’s focus was on Coast Salish communities on both sides of the Canadian–U.S. border and how non-Indigenous teachers can responsibly teach Indigenous curriculum and content.
The teachers travelled to Vancouver, British Columbia, where they engaged in a number of activities. They had a guided tour of the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia as well as other units that support Indigenous research, learning, and awareness on UBC’s campus. The group also spent the afternoon with Terry Point, a Musqueam educator, who guided the group on an ecological tour of the traditional Musqueam territory along the delta of the Fraser River. The group was privileged to attend a workshop with Jo Chrona of the First Nations Education Steering Committee, where they learned what steps British Columbia schools have taken to improve and develop Indigenous content and curriculum for the classroom. Returning to the United States, the teachers met with representatives from the Lummi Nation—Lummi educators and Katzie Elders, such as Renee Swan-Waithe and Cynthia Wilson who helped organize the day, as well as Western Washington faculty member Anna Lees, shared their history, stories, and resources before everyone enjoyed a lunch of traditional foods, including salmon and nettle pesto. The cap to the day was an afternoon spent on a Lummi fishing boat, exploring and learning about reef net techniques and locations, and listening to traditional tales right on the water. It was truly a memorable place-based learning experience.
“The experience of learning from and with Indigenous people was priceless,” noted one educator. Another commented, “Canada is our close neighbor and has a similar shared past so our proximity only leads to enrich current discussion of the environment, treatment of Indigenous people, and borders.”
For forty years the K-12 STUDY CANADA Summer Institute has trained educators in new perspectives and approaches to teaching about our neighbor to the north. The K-12 STUDY CANADA Summer Institute is supported by our U.S. Department of Education Title VI grant shared by UW’s Canadian Studies Center and WWU’s Center for Canadian-American Studies.
The Canadian Studies Center forms the Pacific Northwest National Resource Center (NRC) on Canada with the Center for Canadian-American Studies, Western Washington University (WWU). Kyla Sweet, at WWU, serves as Education and Curriculum Specialist for the NRC. K-12 STUDY CANADA is the NRC’s annual professional development workshop, offered by the Center for Canadian-American Studies at Western Washington University for over 35 years, serving educators from almost every state in the nation. The Institute is funded, in part, by a Title VI grant from International and Foreign Language Education, Office of Postsecondary Education, U.S. Department of Education.