On February 12, members of Ms. Bayda’s Grade Four class at Outlook Elementary School (OES) participated in a Blanket Exercise and Talking Circle. The Blanket Exercise was developed in 1996 by the Aboriginal Rights Coalition who with Indigenous elders and teachers developed an interactive way of learning the history that all Canadians should know. The Blanket Exercise has since been offered thousands of times and the fourth edition was released in 2016.
The Blanket Exercise is based on participatory popular education methodology and the goal is to build understanding about the shared history of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada by walking through pre-contact, treaty-making, colonization and resistance. Participants are actively involved as they step onto blankets that represent the land and into the role of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. The Blanket Ceremony engages participants on an emotional and intellectual level and effectively educates and increases empathy.
Following Blanket Exercises, Talking Circles take place. A Talking Circle is an Indigenous tradition where only the person holding a special object like a feather or a rock speaks and each person in the Circle takes a turn speaking as the object is passed around. The Talking Circle gives participants the opportunity to reflect on what they learned in the Blanket Exercise and also hear how it impacted other participants.
The Blanket Exercise was facilitated by Ms. Bayda and the OES Child and Youth Counselor Ms. Fedyk, both who have received the training to deliver the Exercise. Ms. Fedyk is also a Métis woman.
The students were very respectful during the Blanket Exercise and clearly realized the importance of what they were learning. In the Talking Circle that followed, the students indicated that they hoped they could help improve relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada.
Pictured above: students in Ms. Bayda’s Grade Four class take turns examining the Talking Feather used in the Talking Circle that followed the Blanket Exercise.