Shannen's Dream Day of Action

Shannen Koostachin's Dream Day of Action at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Elementary School: A Student-Led Journey of ReconciliACTION
Posted on 05/30/2024
Students at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Elementary School,

At St. Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Elementary School, the spirit of reconciliation and action recently took center stage as students from grades 2, 5, and 6 came together to honour the legacy of Shannen Koostachin, a young Cree student from Attawapiskat First Nation, whose dream of equitable education for Indigenous children resonates powerfully today. This day, aptly named "Shannen's Dream Day of Action," was a student-led initiative supported by principal Tracey Brown and classroom teachers Sabrina Pasquale and Kathryn Gregotski, that aimed not only to raise awareness about the challenges faced by Indigenous students in education but also to inspire tangible change within their own community.

The school's participation in Apple's Challenge for Change project played a significant role in shaping the Shannen's Dream Day of Action. As an Apple School, St. Kateri Tekakwitha CES embraced innovative approaches to education, leveraging technology to foster creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking among students. The Challenge for Change project provided a platform for students to apply their digital skills and creativity to address real-world issues, aligning perfectly with the goals of Shannen's Dream Day of Action.

Through the integration of technology, students were able to amplify their voices and reach a wider audience, spreading awareness about the inequities faced by Indigenous students in education. The use of digital tools facilitated meaningful engagement and empowered students to take ownership of their learning journey, driving positive change within their school community and beyond.

By combining the principles of Apple education with the values of reconciliation and inclusivity, St. Kateri Tekakwitha CES exemplified the transformative power of technology in education, turning Shannen's Dream into a tangible reality.

The day began with a student-led assembly, setting the stage for a day filled with learning and action. Accompanied by superintendent, Mr. DiFrancesco, the Indigenous Education Truth and Reconciliation Consultant, Amanda Ottolino and Indigenous Youth Advisor, Kylie Acquah, students from grades 2, 5, and 6 gathered the student body to kick off the event. The assembly not only highlighted the importance of Shannen's Dream but also served as a reminder of the students' role as agents of change within their school and community.

Interactive stations engaged students in various activities:

• Station 1: Spirit Bear Video which explained Shannen's Dream and the need for safe and comfy schools for all children. This set the tone for the day, emphasizing the importance of education as a fundamental right.
• Station 2: Letter Writing Students penned heartfelt messages to the government, expressing their thoughts on the inequities in education and advocating for change. Brian, a student participant, noted, "There were a variety of ideas in their letters," highlighting the depth of thought and understanding among the students.
• Station 3: Flower Planting This station focused on action through planting flowers, symbolizing growth and renewal. This hands-on activity allowed students to reflect on the idea that change starts from the ground up, mirroring the grassroots nature of Shannen's Dream movement.
• Station 4: Kahoot Quiz tested students' knowledge about Shannen's Dream, reinforcing key concepts in a fun and interactive way. "I liked the feeling of creating real change," said Natalie, capturing the essence of the day.
• Station 5: Imagining Safe Schools This station encouraged students to imagine what safe and comfy schools look like, feel like, and sound like. This exercise in empathy and creativity helped students envision a better future for all children.
• Station 6:
Dream Worksheet Students completed a "Schools are a Place to Dream" worksheet, reflecting on their own dreams for education and how they can contribute to making those dreams a reality.
• Stations 7 and 8: Indigenous Culture Stations These stations offered opportunities to explore Indigenous culture and traditions. Students learned about traditional medicines with Ms. O and engaged in Indigenous crafts with Ms. A, fostering a deeper appreciation for Indigenous ways of knowing and being.

Teachers played a pivotal role in guiding and supporting students. Grade 5/6 teacher Miss Pasquale noted, "It was inspiring to see the students take charge and lead the activities. They demonstrated a deep understanding of the issues and showed great empathy and maturity." Grade 2 teacher Mrs. Gregotski said, "Seeing the students in the teacher role changed my perspective on what it means to teach,” highlighting the impact of experiential learning.

Students reflected on the day's events with positive feedback. Skyler said, "I liked that more people are learning about Shannen and her dream, so they want to make a difference." Liliana B added, "It inspired other people to learn more." Kira expressed, "It was fun to be the leaders of the school," while Ben noted, "It was cool to hear all the different opinions and views." Artem shared, "It was fun to see how people were learning throughout the day," and Victoria emphasized the value of teamwork, stating, “Teamwork makes the dream work." Ayosubomi, inspired by the day, shared, "I loved the actual day of action, and it inspired me to want to be a teacher or principal when I grow up." Ayomide and Ella both highlighted the importance of engagement and curiosity. Ayomide said, "It was cool to teach your friends," while Ella added, "It was cool to see people actually interested and wanting to know more."

Natalie recalled her cousin's words, "My cousin always told me the next generation would make changes, but I don’t think we make change; we ARE the change," embodying the spirit of hope and agency that defines Shannen's Dream and the ongoing journey of reconciliACTION at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Elementary School.

The significance of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the school's namesake and the first Indigenous woman to be canonized as a saint, added deeper meaning to the day's activities. Her legacy of faith and resilience inspired students, reinforcing the importance of compassion, understanding, and reconciliation.

Throughout the day, the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board's dedication to nurturing all learners in a safe and supportive environment was clear. By supporting initiatives like Shannen's Dream Day of Action, the HWCDSB underscores its commitment to helping every student realize their full potential, inspired by the teachings and example of Jesus Christ.

Through their collective efforts, the students of St. Kateri Tekakwitha Elementary School have shown that change is possible, that education is a powerful tool for reconciliation, and that young voices, when empowered, can make a significant difference. Shannen Koostachin's dream lives on in their actions, inspiring others to join the journey towards a more just and inclusive future for all.

To learn more go to: SKT's ReconciliACTION

Students presenting at the assemblyStudents working on a muralTeacher presenting at flower planting station Students watching a power point presentationstudents listening intently to their teacherGrade 3 student holding up her artworkStudent smiling and holding up her planting activity