Category Archives: ESST 317

My Adventure at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum

I have always been torn about going to museums, it seems like a great way to create an additional learning opportunity for students but because I plan on teaching outside of the city, it also seems like an expensive and stressful opportunity for outside learning. The trip to the museum made me realize a few things, while the idea is great to do outside learning, I do not think that the museum is the best place to partake in outside learning related to social studies. Museums are bias, especially the Royal Saskatchewan Museum because it has not been redone in so long. If I were going to spend money on outside learning, I would take the students to Lebret, or the location for the signing of treaty four. Most small towns have their own pieces of historical relevance; like how Craik has an original Sod house that as students we did lots of learning with, such as comparing life now to than, spending a whole day living like pioneers, or how we looked at the structure of the house for a science class. I think that the students can learn more about First Nations from personal experiences and community than from an old museum that focuses more science than on history.  The article Social Studies Teachers’ Views on Learning Outside the Classroom has a lot of valuable points about having students make connections to topics learned in class, but it does not mention that these connections have to cost money, or that these connections have to be based on a museum. Outside learning can happen anywhere, especially in Saskatchewan because our province is so filled with history and experience. Students can take hikes to see buffalo rubbing stones, or go to different provincial parks to learn about the history. Museums are boring and condensed; this results in too much value being lost during the presentation, but actually seeing and taking part in the different sites that history took place is very different. Throughout the whole walk of the museum I tried to compare it to small town museums, and while small town museums are all done by volunteers and fundraisers they have so much more meaning that the big ones in the city. Punnichy, Saskatchewan has a huge heritage of aboriginal history because it has four surrounding reserves, and while you get to see the aboriginal heritage throughout the museum, you get to see the agriculture, and pioneers, and new technologies slowly replacing old technologies. Throughout the whole museum are stories of different people from Punnichy and surrounding communities that show the change through generations of people. That is not something you get from a big city museum. The big museums, do not have time or space for personal stories, so I would not spend any part of my year budget taking students to a museum where it shows a close minded opinion when they could have the chance to see what small town communities have to offer.

The Royal Saskatchewan Museum may be great as an idea, but it is not great in practicality and based on the faces of the few Aboriginals that I saw touring the museum at the same time, it is offensive to some aboriginals. It shocked me that the museum had no knew content about Aboriginals, considering all the changes that are happening within their culture, no mention of residential schools, or the Indian Act, Idle no more, or so many other major events that have happened. These events have not only effected Aboriginals but also all Canadians so it seems obvious to me that they would need to be included in the museum. Part of me wonders if there have been no changes because there is not the budget for changes, or if because administration does not see the need to change something that is “not relevant to our future”. Outside learning is important, but not if the outside learning is tainted with misleading information or ideas. The museum needs to be changed, and if they were going to have the majority of a floor dedicated to Aboriginals, it would make sense if Aboriginals had say in the presentation of the display, rather than have people that put little consideration into what is being told about history.

What the witness blanket says to me

Artifact Review

The first thing I notice when I look at the witness blanket is the large door that is in the middle of the display. Doors are used as supports when you are building a house; they assist in holding up the roofs and beams. The door in the display has the same effect, it holds the display together; not only does it connect the two sides but it sets the whole frame. If there is a door, than it must have opened to a room; was this a door to a bedroom, a bathroom, a main door, a classroom? In the image, the website provides the door being closed, on the side that is shown there is a painting that shows what appears to be a dark forest but it is not this that makes the door so interesting. It is the other side that adds mystery, the painting on the other side has two parts, the first is a young child sleeping; that leads to the conclusion it was a bedroom. The second part of the painting is what makes the artifact uncomfortable, above the sleeping child there is a male figure watching. A bedroom is supposed to be a place where you can be yourself, be safe and protected. Behind a closed door, a child should feel comfortable. It is hard to believe that the children that slept behind this door felt safe or protected. The thought that even when they were sleeping in a state of vulnerability, someone was watching them is a terrifying thought. This door could have been the separation between others and the abused. This door could have been witness to abuse, neglect, tears, prayers and other untold tragedies that were experienced by innocent aboriginal children. A bedroom door is meant to close a person off from the real world so they can escape from their personal problems, it is not meant to hold a child in so that their personal problems can find them when it is convenient.

The second artifact that caught my attention was the drum. The point of residential schools was to kill the Indian inside the man, to remove their heritage, language and beliefs. The drum was and still is a large part of aboriginal heritage; it is shocking that such a valuable piece of aboriginal heritage was found within residential schools. Traditional languages, practices and beliefs were beaten out of innocent children, yet a drum was left for the aboriginals. It does not make sense; was this drum there as a reminder of how their heritage was bad, was it snuck in by a young child and hidden away as a remind of who they are? On the other hand, did those running the school not realise the value of the drum to aboriginal heritage, did they not care, or was it not an artifact of a residential school, but something that was added as a connection piece between the victims and the survivors? It is easier to think of the drum being added as a connection piece because the thought that such an important piece of aboriginal traditions was considered unimportant is more frustrating than the thought that they allowed a drum into the school as a reminder of the heritage that they were being removed from by force.  The fact that the drum is present in the witness blanket adds more meaning to the situation than the other pieces, because it connects to their heritage.

The witness blanket as a whole has lots of meaning; it provides evidence of the struggles that the survivors went through and the slow healing process that they are still going through. The door shows that past, it was witness to events that took place behind the door. The drum provides the opposite effects by having the connection to both traditional beliefs and future generations. Two things that have little to do with each other, except that they are in the same display, yet they both important to the whole picture, the door is the support and the drum connects the past to the present.   back of door front of door

This is what the door looks like:

This is the link to finding the drum

Citizenship education

Citizenship education is hard for me to wrap my head around. I do not remember being taught it in school, I do not remember any mention of what it takes to be a citizen. I briefly recall something about making a list what it means to be Canadian. The list included stuff about being friendly, polite, saying eh, knowing how to skate, and liking maple syrup. This list sounds like something made by those in middle school but in fact we were in grade 11 or 12, and the discussion had nothing to do with social studies, or citizenship education, it had to deal with a poem read in an English class. Not once was there any discussion about what it means to be Canadian, how to become a Canadian, our rights as Canadians, or how current events were impacting citizenship.

The last election was in 2011, you would think that this would lead to some discussion about politics, but the only mention of politics was that the teachers in my school made a collective decision that they would not discuss it with students because they did not want to influence our opinions. That is all that was said. We learned nothing about the parties, about those running, we did not even talk about how the provincial government was designed, anything about politics were not discussed in any grades, in any forms.

Bill C-51 was big in the papers this spring, my little brother was in grade 10. Besides what he seen on TV and the internet he knew nothing of this bill. When it was brought up in school the teacher he had referred to the agreement that was made back in 2011. The teachers would not talk about politics, this meant more than I realized by in grade 12. Everything can be political depending on your point of view, as I inquired a little more about what the teachers considered by political discussion I found out this meant anything that was being discussed in the house of commons unless directly related to an outcome.

I think this is because schools are so worried about offending someone than they often forget about what the students need. Teachers do not answer to their students, they answer to the parents, principals, STF, government and school boards. In a small town it is easy to offend parents when you teach anything that differs from the small town perspective, and parents can make a teachers life a nightmare in a small town. Teaching about democracy without using elections seems silly, but it seems just a silly as having half a town mad at a teacher because they brought up the wrong discussion in class.

Schools have an opportunity to use current events, but maybe there are situations when those current events will cause more problems than anything else. Teachers know their school, students and community, while some schools are open to teaching citizenship and democracy using real situations, others are aware it will do more damage than good.