Keepers of the Land 2.0

Area(s) of Focus: well being, curriculum
Division(s): Junior, Senior
Level(s): Grade 9, Grade 10, Grade 11, Grade 12

To use outdoor education as a means to foster an appreciation for and develop a greater understanding of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit people’s culture, way of life (past/present) and traditional teachings as the original keepers of the land.

To use outdoor education as a means to foster an appreciation for and develop a greater understanding of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit people’s culture, way of life (past/present) and traditional teachings as the original keepers of the land.

Students will participate in treks, canoe trips, exchanges and classroom (formal/informal settings) activities. Both Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth and mentors will be able to share their knowledge, dispel misconceptions and build positive relationships that will allow them to recognize the importance of traditional cultures/teachings, the outdoors, and the skills that will allow them to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle.

To meet Calls to Action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Education (Section 63).


Team Members

  • Sven Brouwer

    Ottawa-Carleton District School Board

  • Melanie Trumpower

    Ottawa-Carleton District School Board

  • Tom Macartney

    Ottawa-Carleton District School Board

  • Marlene MacRae

    Ottawa-Carleton District School Board

Professional Learning Goals

  • Developed a true understanding of what reconciliation means through the lens of FNMI elders/peoples through discussions and experiences
  • Understood through the lens of First Nations peoples as the original keepers of the land and the significance behind traditions that connect to the environment (e.g., what is the significance of the giving of tobacco as a gift?)
  • At the starting stages, we developed a partnership with FNMI communities, youth, educators, etc. as we recognized that this was not our story to tell, but the story that must be told
  • Integrated four to five of the UN Sustainable Development Goals into lessons and activities which created not only a rich learning environment, but also rich performance tasks (i.e., pushed students to ask big questions, seek out answers and think critically). The UN Sustainable Development Goals that were integrated were: #3 Good Health and Well-Being, #4 Quality Education, #15 Life on Land, #16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, and #17 Partnerships for the Goals.

Activities and Resources

  • Advisor – Nick Ng-A-Fook – Director of Faculty of Education, University of Ottawa
    • Leading connections between local Indigenous peoples and school board communities
  • Kevin Lamoureux – Associate Vice-President of Indigenous Affairs, University of Winnipeg
    • Presentation/talk to teacher candidates from University of Ottawa
  • Ben Singer, Amanda Danis – Teacher candidates, University of Ottawa
    • Creating teacher resource guide to connect the Calls to Action by the TRC to Healthy Active Living Curriculum
  • OCDSB FNMI Subject Council PD Day
    • Various presentations and workshops
    • Making connections and building relationships
  • Reconciliation Through Indigenous Education – online course through edX
  • Jody Alexander – Vice-Principal, First Nation, Métis and Inuit Education, OCDSB
  • Kris Meawasige – Student Support and Re-engagement Co-ordinator Indigenous Education, OCDSB

Unexpected Challenges

  • Challenges to creating relationships and building partnerships within our community:
    • Lack of resources
      • Very little resources are available for Reconciliation and Education, especially for Healthy Active Living and Outdoor Education Curriculum
    • Initial contacts were difficult to find and to connect to
      • Not knowing the protocol to creating relationships within our FNMI and educational communities
      • Pressures on local FNMI and educational communities made it difficult to find time to meet with individuals and groups

Enhancing Student Learning and Development

Through presentations and discussions with members of our local FNMI and educational communities, we learned that Reconciliation will have the most impact through simple activities and discussions that fit naturally within our curriculum. For this year, we tried, with great success, the following discussions and activities:

  • Understanding the appreciation of the Medicinal Wheel
    • The connection of the Medicinal Wheels’ teaching of balance for Earth, Environment, Communities, and self to the students’ personal lives
      • Recognizing the importance of balance in one’s personal life and the realization that if you remove family, environment and culture, that balance is not really possible
  • Watching the movie Indian Horse
    • The link to the Medicine Wheel and the reality of Indigenous peoples’ experiences through multiple generations
  • Sharing circles during outdoor education trips
    • Following the basic rules of Indigenous sharing circles, opportunities were taken for students and staff to share experiences, including trip challenges, highlights and the feelings/emotions experienced during the watching of Indian Horse
    • The circles were led by students:
      • Students chose an item from the land that matched the activities/experiences of the day and were responsible to return it to the land upon completion of the circle
      • Students chose the focus of the sharing circle with support of the teacher
  • During the summative exit interviews for the course, many students referred to the Medicine Wheel and the Sharing Circles as having a great impact on them and will continue to do so as they continue a healthy active lifestyle


The plan for sharing is two-fold with potential for more opportunities:

  1. Within the school:
    1. As part of mapping out how teaching reconciliation occurs across the various subjects and grades, we will build subject continuums to ensure we get maximum value for student learning and appreciation. Specific content will complement each other and will not become redundant.
    2. Within a PD opportunity to share with colleagues what we have learned through this process. Specifically, the simplicity of integrating valuable learning organically and that reconciliation is not as daunting a prospect as it seems.
  2. Sharing practices and experiences with the OCDSB Outdoor Ed subject council, as well as outdoor education teachers and teacher candidates that would like to embark on integrating reconciliation into their practices.

Project Evaluation

This project has been a great success, but we have just started the foundation of what we ultimately want to achieve.

The success has been:

  • To define what reconciliation means in the context of education and specifically Healthy Active Living and Outdoor Education
  • Integrating curriculum organically to have students develop an appreciation for Indigenous cultures and for themselves
  • Creating relationships with Indigenous educational specialists, including in our board and with the University of Ottawa
  • Creating relationships with FNMI community members, including Monique Manatch, a local Algonquin Elder
  • Receiving support and contacts within our board to continue to build on our initial foundation for next year

Our next steps are to develop our curriculum across all three grades (10, 11 and 12), to continue to make community connections, to build those relationships, and to work towards a partnership that would see our students interact and learn with Indigenous youth.

The struggle for this project and the TLC PD opportunity is the timeline. With a project like ours, it takes time to build relationships and to find pathways to move forward. Time was limited to make great strides in this project because we did not get the approval for this project until November.