ȽÁU, WELṈEW̱ Tribal School incorporates traditional language into physical literacy education

Developing physical literacy  is about custom-designing opportunities for participants to find success in the way that is most appropriate for them. In the case of ȽÁU, WELṈEW̱ Tribal School in Brentwood Bay, that has meant translating games and activities into the students’ traditional language.

“We’ve been working hard at language revitalization for the past six years, so many of our lessons are delivered in the SENĆOŦEN language. What’s great about our partnership with Sport for Life is that we’ve been able to use our language during our physical activities,” said SX̱EDŦELISIYE Sampson, the immersion teacher for Kindergarten and Grade 1. 

“I find the students now are more excited about physical education, about going to the gym, and going outdoors.”

During physical activity periods at the school, Sport for Life provides a visiting mentor teacher that works alongside Sampson to introduce fundamental movement skills in a fun and accessible way. Sampson especially appreciates how the exercises break down full sports and movements into more digestible pieces, getting the students to build their coordination or balance before asking them to do something more complex. 

In her opinion, instructors should focus on learning how to throw and catch before trying to attempt baseball. One of her favourite things is to incorporate music and dancing into their lesson plans, often using tracks from A Tribe Called Red to get the kids fired up.

“At times it might feel like we’re tricking them into learning, but then we’re also sitting down and discussing with them the importance of being active. We learn about our heartbeat, we ask if our blood is flowing. We’ve also been incorporating yoga and meditation time, which has been hugely beneficial.”

Sampson is passionate about providing her students with the tools and opportunities to live an active life

“We have a number of students with unique needs and we’ve been working through options to support them. Keeping them active and engaged is so important, and our whole school from K-5 is committed to keeping them active along the way.”

The mentor teacher at the school is Jessica Waterman, known as “Coach Jess” by her students. She’s learned a number of SENĆOŦEN  words since beginning her work there, and has found it inspiring to be on the ground floor of these student’s development. 

This work is about building relationships, and Sport for Life is grateful to work nationally with the Aboriginal Sport Circle, provincially with the Indigneous Sport, Physical Activity and Recreation Council (ISPARC), locally with the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence and with the school. This project has been rich with learnings about building capacity for the school to continue this work beyond the project and ensure that there are resources and tools for the school to be successful. 

“I think it would be a toss up for who learned more: me or the kids,” said Waterman.

“My time with these students has been full of fun, laughter and skill development through various games and activities. We’re exploring their potential. It’s been extremely satisfying to see the ways physical literacy enriches their lives, and to build this relationship with the community.”

Sampson couldn’t agree more. She plans to continue this collaboration for years to come. 

“It’s been a beautiful, reciprocal learning experience,” she said. 

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