2021 Year-end Reflections : The School Year, Star Wars & My Dad

Where to begin?

The 2020-21 school year has been … ummm … let’s call it memorable. We can throw in exhausting as well. This past year I’ve written a lot about the pandemic — its effects on us, what we’ve learned from it, and how we might grow from it. I’ve written a total of 17 posts since August and 6 of them have specifically referenced the pandemic.

It’s been on my mind. I’ve never blogged so consistently about a topic in one year.

In case you’re wondering, here are the posts:

Some of my other blog posts from this year didn’t actually mention COVID or the pandemic, but honestly, the link was there if you wanted to find it — for example, the one on the importance of being kind (We’re All Fighting a Battle – Apr 2021).

The point I’m making is this …

There hasn’t been a day that went by where we were not thinking about the pandemic, worrying about the pandemic, or wondering about what comes next in the pandemic.

It has consumed everyone this year.

And for me, it has been quite cathartic to have my blog where I can crystalize my thoughts and share them with you. But, I also hope that it has been helpful for you to know what I’m thinking and processing during this year of incredible change and opportunity.

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The Shameful History of Residential Schools

Today I am sharing with you a post that I wrote almost 4 years ago. It was the third post I ever wrote, and my first one on any specific content — the first two were about why I was blogging. My third post was titled “Residential Schools – We Can Remember by Wearing Orange”.

On that date of Sept 25, 2017 I wrote about my personal journey into understanding residential school history. Amongst the things I talked about was my ignorance in understanding about the entire residential school period.

This past weekend I read my post again. What I said almost 4 years ago still rang true for me today — we have a long journey ahead of us before we even come close to true Reconciliation over the atrocities committed by Canada during its history with residential schools.

But, what was different for me today was the inadequacy of the title of my 2017 post. We have an obligation to do more than just remember the residential school period. We all have a moral obligation to be active in moving towards true Reconciliation.

Remembering isn’t good enough.

Residential schools were formed after the passing of the Indian Act in 1876.  Their primary purpose was to remove Indigenous children from their families and, thus, remove any vestiges of their culture and language. Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin referred to the treatment of Indigenous citizens as cultural genocide.

“The most glaring blemish on the Canadian historic record relates to our treatment of the First Nations that lived here at the time of colonization.”

Beverly McLachlin
Tears For The Children – In Recognition of the 215 children identified at the former Kamloops Residential School site
Used with permission from Haida artist Shelly Samuels

Last week 215 children were identified in a mass grave just outside of Kamloops at a former residential school — one of the largest such schools that was ever operated. These unmarked graves represent a stark example of the atrocities committed by a nation against Indigenous children and their families.

There is no hiding from this past — no explanation that makes it less painful for those intimately affected by its existence — no excuses — period.

Today, I am choosing to repost my blog from Sept 2017 — the facts have not changed, but the need to understand and act is even clearer for me today.

This time I am asking you to do more than just remember or reflect on the horrible acts from the past — instead, I am asking you to make a point of making a contribution in moving forward towards TRUE Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples across this country.

So, read the blog again and make sure that you watch the embedded videos that help tell the horrible story of this shameful national past. Here is the post:

Residential Schools – We Can Remember by Wearing Orange (Dave Eberwein, The Power of Why, Sept 25 2017)

We all have an updated to-do list:

  • Become KNOWLEDGEABLE about the history of residential schools
  • BUILD AWARENESS IN OTHERS about this horrible national atrocity
  • ACT in ways that SHARE THE TRUTH as well as BUILD PATHWAYS TOWARDS REAL RECONCILIATION for all Indigenous peoples in Canada.

As a country and as its citizens we own it. And, because of that we all have a moral obligation to do something about it — where past injustices are recognized, acknowledged and truly acted upon.

This is our shared history.

Can We Go Outside Today?

I remember the conversation like it was yesterday.

It would be a typical day in late spring. I was in my classroom teaching science. The weather was warm, sunny and inviting. A hand would rise and the polite voice would ask, “Can we go outside for class today? Please, Mr. Eberwein.” Most sunny days the question repeated itself. What the students probably didn’t realize is that I wanted to be outside as well. However, my lessons just didn’t fit well with being outdoors so the answer was often a NO.

Prospect Lake Elementary School – Natural Playground

But, IS there some evidence that supports the idea that learning outside is beneficial — that being immersed in our natural surroundings is actually helpful while learning curriculum?

We have all heard anecdotal support for learning outside — that being in nature is calming and centering — things like going on nature hikes, being in outdoor classrooms, or taking field trips to the beach or old growth forests all are great experiences. But, I haven’t seen the empirical evidence to support that notion.

Now, three researchers have reviewed hundreds of other studies to find an answer to the question of whether being in nature makes a difference to learning.

The unequivocal answer is YES.

The review, published in February 2019 (Do Experiences With Nature Promote Learning? Converging Evidence of a Cause-and-Effect Relationship), shows that learning in nature can have profound effects on overall student achievement.

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