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Outdoor Cultural Classroom

October 29, 2021

Story submitted by Rebecca Scirocco, Wellness Consultant

On October 27th, 2021, my intern Tara and I delivered our first Wellness “Outdoor Cultural Classroom” as a land based learning experience in the community of Bear River. The concept behind the “Outdoor Cultural Classroom '' is to provide our students with the opportunity to engage in land based learning activity that connects their learning to the land and our Mi’kmaw Culture. Land based education promotes a deeper physical, mental and spiritual connection to the land. Research shows that learning in an outdoor environment has mental health benefits, improves understanding for active learners, and can help students develop environmental awareness and a connection to the land. Our program will bring elders, knowledge keepers and youth together, so that our elders/knowledge keepers can pass on their knowledge to our impressionable youth. This can include teachings about ceremonies, traditional medicines, history of our land, how to be good stewards of the land and all while learning about our Mi’kmaw language and culture. Culturally relevant teachings can also be intertwined with the curriculum. Teachers can use this opportunity to make connections to the land based learning their students are being offered through this program.  

MK’s own Red Road Coordinator, Michael R. Denny shared his knowledge with the students of Bear River. Michael R, is our very own in-house “knowledge keeper”. It was a privilege to learn alongside the students of Bear River the teachings that Michael R shared. We were provided with a demonstration on how to make a “Ji’kmaqn”. Michael R made the connection to the land with this teaching by taking the students outside to show the students the trees that are used for making the ji’kmaqn. He gave us the history, and meaning behind it. He talked about how the process is done, he used the Mi’kmaw names for the trees and tools that are required. It was a very hands-on, interactive learning experience for our students. After the discussion outside, we returned to the cook house, where Michael R demonstrated how the “ji’kmaqn” is made using the wooden horse and traditional tools. The students asked questions and learned more about their culture and language. Followed by the demonstration; Michael taught the students how to make their own medicine pouches and he discussed the 4 sacred medicines (sage, sweetgrass, cedar and tobacco) and their significance. He also had the students repeat a prayer in Mi’kmaw for when they added their medicines to the pouch. We wrapped up the day with some singing and drumming. 

Our intern Tara Mellen stated that; “It was an empowering experience. Being welcomed in the Bear River community was like a breath of fresh air. The workshop was helpful to connect and learn more about our Mi’kmaq culture. While we were there, I was moved by how welcoming and inclusive the students were. During our time I had felt a deeper appreciation for our culture.”