Community Exchange at LEARN

On May 31st, the Provincial Resource Team hosted a Community Exchange at LEARN, bringing together 20 provincially and regionally mandated organizations interested in forming school-community partnerships. 

Each organization shared upcoming activities, resources and strategies for the 2017-2018 school year which cater to different age groups across the English-speaking community.  We talked about potential future collaborations on the themes of parental engagement and empowerment, students success, and bilingualism and literacy. 

Resources by Audience infographic DownloadDownload

“I loved the the Community Exchange event and learned a lot at many levels. The LEARN team created a lively and innovative format for the day that encouraged exchange and network-building. These are key for sustainable and vital English-speaking communities in Quebec. It would be great to have more events like these.”
— Lorraine O’Donnell, Ph.D. Affiliate Assistant Professor, School of Community and Public Affairs, Concordia University, & Coordinator-Researcher, Quebec English-Speaking Communities Research Network (QUESCREN)

Overall, participants left feeling excited about new connections, encouraged and inspired to work together with the educational community to support student success and enhance community vitality. 

How you can get involved: 

TEACH

Teachers, principals and school staff interested in developing school-community partnerships can contact LEARN’s Provincial Resource Team for resources and to connect to organizations that offer services to the English-Speaking community.    

LEARN

Parents and community members who would like to learn more about the projects and partnerships available in your community are invited to visit us here to locate your nearest CLC Visit site.

HELP

If your organization would like to offer services to the English-Speaking community, create partnerships with schools, or you would like to participate in the next community exchange, contact the Provincial Resource Team for more information. 

Spaghetti Nights Family Workshops at The Verdun CLC

Parents and students alike are noticing the benefits of the monthly Spaghetti Nights Family Workshops offered for the last four years at Riverview Elementary School to English-speaking families in the Verdun community.  The goal is to help parents support their children to be successful both in school and in life, and the evenings are made accessible as the CLC provides free food, homework support and childcare services. Participating parents report seeing improvements in family life as well as their children’s behaviour and performance in school, while students report feeling more supported due to an increase in parental presence in school. Furthermore, these workshops have helped the school become a safe and supportive environment for parents to share ideas and best practices, and have fostered community engagement by breaking social isolation.

Spaghetti Nights Family Workshops are offered to English-speaking families from Verdun and the Southwest borough of Montreal monthly during the school year. The evenings have two objectives – namely to help parents a) support their children to be successful in school and in life, and b) develop tools and strategies for optimal parenting and support to their personal development.

In collaboration with McGill’s Social Equity and Diversity Education Office (SEDE), the workshops foster community engagement as families come together to break social isolation and learn together. As a way to engage parents, the Community Learning Centre offers a free spaghetti dinner, as well as homework support and a daycare service to ensure the sessions are accessible to all families. After four years, the workshops continue to gain popularity, with parents inviting friends and family members to participate. Families from all schools in the community are welcome to attend the Spaghetti Nights.

Each interactive workshop offers parents a forum for sharing ideas and best practices in a safe and supportive environment. Post-workshop surveys indicate that many parents are attributing improvements in family life, their children’s behaviour and performance in school, to the tools and strategies they learned from attending the workshops. Their participation has led to improved parenting skills and stronger, more cohesive family units. 

“I feel pretty good about my parenting (4 children), but this gave me new tools that I had never heard of.” Parent
“[The workshops are helpful for me] because I learn ways to raise my child better and be a better parent.” Parent

Students also report benefits from parental participation in these workshops, saying they feel more supported due to an increase in parental presence in school. On average, there are 15-20 parents and 20-25 children per workshop.

The workshops are designed and delivered by professionals on topics related to increasing student success and engagement, as well as promoting healthy lifestyles and well-being. The topics are chosen according to needs identified by parents. Themes have included:

•    How to Help Your Children Be The Best They Can Be
•    Helping Kids Deal With Transitions and Major Life Changes
•    Work–Life Balance
•    Understanding Technology, Screen-Time and Your Family
•    Helping Children Find Their Passion
•    Exploring and Working With Your Parenting Styles  (For Couples and Single Parents)
•    Resilience
•    Self-Regulation

November 3, 2016: “I learn so much from Nico’s workshops, the camel is my screen saver since last year’s workshop!” Parent
Note: Nicolas is one of the most popular workshop presenters and has been invited back on several occasions.  In discussing attachment theory, a common thread in his workshops, he uses camels metaphorically to convey information on needs and wants and is now affectionately referred to by participants as “the camel guy”.

 

The Blanket Exercise Story

In early 2016, the CLCs in Chevery (Netagamiou) and Harrington Harbour reached out to the neighbouring Innu community of Unamen Shipu to invite them to participate in the Kairos Blanket Exercise, an interactive educational activity that covers 500 years of history of Indigenous people in Canada.

A planning team was assembled from the three communities to implement the Blanket Exercise, with a broader aim of developing a long-term relationship, and specifically for the non-Aboriginal communities to learn more about their local Innu history, culture, and traditions. Approximately 125 community members participated in the events, representing more than 20% of the total population of the two communities.

As a result, in the spring, Katy (a representative from Kairos) and Baudouin (a spiritual leader from Unamen Shipu) co-facilitated the Blanket Exercise three times, as community-wide events in Chevery and Harrington Harbour, and for health and education personnel in Unamen Shipu (in recognition of the network of support for those who are residential school survivors or their descendants).

“An incredibly powerful experience that moved me to tears. I truly believe that everyone should participate in this eye opening, thought provoking exercise!” Christine Vatcher, community member

“A very powerful exercise that impacted all participants.  The activity shone a light on a topic that has been left in the dark for too long.” Philip Joycey, School Principal

“L'exercice des couvertures a créé des images bouleversantes qui m'ont touchée profondément. C'est intense!” Monique Bourassa, community member

In fall 2016, the next step was to bring the Blanket Exercise activity to the schools for all students from grade 2 to secondary 5.

“My students told me that the Blanket exercise was the difference between knowing and understanding. It inspired them to continue their research about residential schools. That led them to want to know more about First Nation education in general…they got a lot out of this project and it really opened their eyes to a reality we are not familiar with.” Anne Monger, Teacher

These activities generated a huge amount of empathy, respect, curiosity, and a concrete desire to further nurture the relationship between the three communities.  Teachers have also expressed interest in reaching out to the Olamen School at Unamen Shipu, and plans are currently underway for follow-up student exchanges through in-class interactions or extracurricular activities.

Student impacts include demonstrated ongoing interest and engagement through a variety of follow-up activities, including:

• Writing a letter to the Prime Minister of Canada 
• Creating a “talking feather” modeled after the eagle feather that was passed around the closing circle at the end of the Blanket Exercise. 
• Watching the ‘Secret Path’ film created by Gord Downie (Tragically Hip). Go to siteGo to site
• Conducting research on the impact of loss of land in relation to space and autonomy for indigenous hunting and nomadic practices.  
• Engaged in replicating native artwork such as Wampum bracelets and seed pictures.

Teacher impacts include the incorporation of a variety of new resources and opportunities into their curriculum. 

• An elementary teacher modified the Blanket Exercise EduKit and presented it to her Grade 1-3 class in a format they would understand.
• Another elementary teacher is doing a project in social studies/ERC class with students from grades 1-6 on Algonquian culture and traditional food. They are also reading books by C. J Taylor and Paul Goble about legends of the origin of the Indigenous people.
• A secondary teacher modified her class time to support the interest of her students in an independent exploration of the history, culture, and contemporary issues relating to native peoples of Quebec and Canada. 
• Both elementary and secondary students participated in a webinar by the National Gallery of Canada called Indigenous Art Today.

However, the most powerful outcome for the communities in Chevery and Harrington Harbour has been an overall increased awareness of the history and a desire to keep learning more. Though logistics remain a challenge (the three communities are geographically isolated from one another, with no roads to connect them) everyone remains committed to bridging the barriers of distance and language to learn from each other and continue building a strong, vibrant relationship.

Excerpt from the students’ letter to Prime Minister of Canada:

“We strongly believe First Nations should not have to fight for services other children get to enjoy in this country. We understand that the remoteness of some native communities adds to the complexity of providing good services, but we know firsthand it is no excuse. We are a small school with a student population of 26. We are a remote community of less than 300 residents, located on an island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, with no connecting road. Despite this, our school is well equipped, well cared for and provides us with a positive learning environment. We want ALL the children in this country to have as much as we do.” Callie Evans, Secondary III student, Harrington Harbour School on behalf of all secondary students attending this school.

A Tribute to Paule Langevin's Retirement

A tribute to Paule Langevin as she enters retirement

This past month LEARN’s Provincial Resource Team for the Community Learning Centres (CLC) said farewell to our leader and director, Paule Langevin who retired in May.  How do you say goodbye to someone like Paule?

Over 10 years Paule steered the ship that started small and grew as the approach of schools and community working together gained steam.  A significant part of Paule’s success came from her trust in a process that emphasized a five step CLC Framework balanced with an awareness that a cookie cutter approach will not work with very distinctive and diverse communities.   

As a result, within Quebec’s English Speaking Community, there exists a vibrant network of 83 Community schools called Community Learning Centres that work to develop school-community partnerships that meet the holistic needs of students, families and the community stakeholders in the school.  In a way it was the manifestation of the saying, “it takes a village to raise a child”.

Paule kept her ear to the ground and learned from the best out there, taking ideas like the Theory of Change or Collective Impact and adapting them to our Quebec context.  As a result, she became a featured presenter at conferences in the United States and even contributed to books like Making a Case for Community Schools and Developing Community Schools, Community Learning Centres, Extended-service Schools and Multi-service Schools: International Exemplars for Practice, Policy and Research.

Everyone at LEARN would like to thank Paule for her hard work, vision, dedication and leadership in engaging principals, teachers, Community Development Agents and community partners to successfully develop the CLC approach.  We salute you! Happy Retirement!