Drawing out curriculum from local knowledge;

Applying it in active, outdoor lesson plans across subjects.

Learning Grounds supports the integration of local knowledge in local curriculum through outdoor, active lesson plans. Community Elders share stories and teachings with educators, students, outdoor education experts and active facilitators in Guiding Circles.

These Guiding Circles then draw out curricular connections from the Elder’s teachings to create new, locally relevant lesson plans for everything from science and math to art and Indigenous language classes.

Youth Driven, Youth Supported

The need for this work was identified by Southern Alberta First Nations school and community members, including Tsuu T’ina and Stoney Nakoda, through Ever Active Schools listening projects: Using PhotoVoice to hear the voices of youth of a healthy school environment; Facilitating a pathing process (visioning) that included Tsuu T’ina youth to identify current and unique priorities of the community; and holding a Resiliency Workshop in January 2016 with 380 adults and youth to share learnings of contemporary Indigenous communities.

Themes that emerged were the importance of sport, physical activity, land, social activities, language and culture. Youth and communities are calling for Indigenizing the curriculum, reintroducing traditional games, and restoring knowledge of culture, land and history across all subjects.

Benefits of locally created, active, outdoor lessons across subjects

  • First Nations youth experience more learning opportunities that reconnect them to land and local teachings, improving cultural capital and engagement in school.
  • Increased physical activity / fitness in outdoor settings yields health benefits of reduced stress and anxiety, better focus and attention, and reduced risk for chronic illness.
  • Better engagement and cultural relevancy improves student retention and ultimately graduation rates.
  • Teachers, community members, physicians and allied health professionals receive enhanced professional development and enriched school community partnerships.

Sharing Lessons Across the Province

With blessings and approval by the communities involved, the knowledge and wisdom of land-based learning will be shared at an education systems level to shape changes in all students, and school communities, across Alberta.  Existing partnerships with Calgary Board of Education and Calgary Catholic will develop knowledge exchange activities to impact public school jurisdictions.

Why now?

The recommendations in the Truth and Reconciliation Report emphasize the importance of active, outdoor, natural play. This, combined with the 2015 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity, and the knowledge that the Indigenous youth population is the fastest growing demographic in Canada, makes now the time to act.

Curriculum lives in schools every day, and the academic content, resources, lessons and teaching practices developed in this work can be applied repeatedly in additional school communities in Calgary and beyond.

Professional development builds self-efficacy and leaves a positive impact on teaching practice, most notably in understand meaning in the land and an Indigenous way of life. Elders will both be a place of knowledge through storytelling and will also be teachers of new curriculum.

A change in school culture toward active, outdoor, culturally-relevant learning lays the foundation for policy and systems change, which stands the test of time through staff turnover and other threats to sustained impact.

Partnerships formed through the initiative continue to benefit the participants without additional resource inputs required, leaving a positive, resilient and supportive legacy.


Learning Grounds is generously supported by the Calgary Foundation and the Community Foundation of Lethbridge and Southwestern Alberta

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