Twenty-eight Grade 7 and 8 students from the Free the Children Team at Hyde Park Public School in Barrie are returning from a trip that they’ve been planning for months, and it’s one that they’ll never forget.
The purpose of the trip was for the students to learn about truth and reconciliation directly from people vs textbooks. Moosonee Public School has a student body comprised of 98 per cent First Nations or Métis background, and many would have family that experienced residential schools.
To prepare the students, guest speaker Yvonne Morrison, Education Officer with the Indigenous Education Office in Barrie (as part of the Ministry of Education) came to visit the Hyde Park students and gave them a sense of what life has been like for Indigenous youth in northern communities. Yvonne hails from Moose Factory, Ontario and shared her knowledge and experiences.
The teachers and students at Hyde Park had learned that resources were lacking at the school, so significant fundraising took place in order for the students to bring much needed sporting equipment and books to Moosonee. The students also took it upon themselves to have special commemorative Orange Shirt Day t-shirts made to distribute to the students and teachers at the school.
Shannon LeBlanc, Grade 6 teacher, and Sheena McRae, Grade 8 teacher (now Student Success teacher), at Hyde Park Public School were involved in the initial planning of the trip and will continue this relationship with Moosonee Public School to ensure connections and learning continues to take place for years to come.
“These kinds of ongoing and long-term projects are great examples of how to put reconciliation into action,” says Alison Bradshaw, Principal of Indigenous Education, Simcoe County District School Board.
Kathy Whitley, Principal of Hyde Park Public School received a touching letter this week from one of the teachers/parents from Moosonee:
Linus woke up this morning and put on his new orange shirt (though he said he was perhaps not supposed to bring it home) and it reminded me of why this day is so very important. Because a little girl was not allowed to wear her orange shirt at residential school and all that had transpired in those places, we remember the kids and support the survivors.
The shirts are BEAUTIFUL!
I can’t thank you enough for all that you and your school have done for our community. It touches my heart, both as an educator that deals with the fallout of residential school daily and as a parent.
Please thank the kids and the teachers for their support. I had an amazing time at the feast, especially chatting with your students. They are remarkable kids.
The commitment of your teachers is amazing. They are quite forward thinking and obviously hardworking. They put the kids first and that is evident.
Please do come again. I feel it’s bridging these gaps that is fundamental to understanding.
My heart is truly full! I am headed to school today with that and THAT is a great way to start a day!
-Sam (aka Shelley) Hamilton
We are very proud of the teachers and students for doing their part in learning and participating in truth and reconciliation. You have made an impact in Moosonee!