Indigenizing the classroom at Bow Valley College
For Bow Valley College instructors Allen Fung and Kathryn Kiss, indigenizing the curriculum is not just about adding material to the English course they teach. It’s about embedding Indigenous knowledges into the classroom.
The Literacy and Essential Skills educators have been working to incorporate Indigenous histories and ways of knowing into the non-fiction section of their course, which is focused on diversity, inclusion, and identity. Each Indigenous element added to the curriculum is authenticated by an Indigenous person, such as an Elder or Residential School Survivor. Fung says the work is in response to the Truth and Reconciliation’s calls to action on education.
“A big part of what we're trying to focus on is not just the historical traumas, but stories of resilience — that there are an abundance of thriving peoples and cultures that continue to have positive outcomes,” he says. “I think it's really important to balance the two. To show perspective on the darker historical truths, but also on some of the light that is shining today.”
Their work is part of efforts across the College’s School of Foundational Learning to bring Indigenous ways of knowing, being, and doing into classes to benefit students from a wide range of backgrounds. Another example of this work is a science course that connects Indigenous life-givers — earth, sun, air, and water — to chemistry, physics, and biology studies.
Fung and Kiss say their work on the English curriculum is just the beginning.
“One of the key outcomes we are looking for in this whole process is not just to bring awareness about Truth and Reconciliation to our learners, but to bring awareness about the need for accepting one's own identity, accepting and embracing diversity, and that we’re all in this process together,” says Kiss. “It's a very interesting course to teach now, but it will simply develop as time goes along and become better.”