What about the lake? Being critical while making lesson plans.

As most of you already know, I work with preservice educators and I love this work. The excitement that they have knowing that they will be able to be part of the change in the education system is really the best part of my job. Working with new educators that are willing to step into this work, challenge how they have been taught, and push themselves to be more critical, is why I do this work. Knowing that the seeds I plant with new teachers will grow as they move out into the system, which will plant more seeds with the next generations of students that will be the leaders of this country one day. This is the most exciting part of my job.

One of the assignments that I gave my students this term was creating an anti-colonial lesson. At first the students had a challenging time trying to see what it was that I was asking them to do. I was asking them to be critical and look for other perspectives within the plan that I had given them. I know that when students come in to my class, they have been marinated in the western colonial education system for at least 17 years. Asking them to look with a critical lens is a big ask. It takes time and practice to be able to see the steps needed to apply an anti-colonial lens. I was so excited to see that 2/3 of the class, with some practice and guidance could do this work. This means that if we take some time to practice our critical lens, we can all do this work. We took some class time and had our learning groups support each other with the work and by the time they handed in their work, I could clearly see that they had some tools to be more critical about how they taught.

I am sure you are asking yourself now, okay Carolyn what tools did you give the class? Let me walk you through some things I talked about with the class.

I started with a commercial that was playing last fall from Save On Foods. The beginning of the commercial Daryl, from Save on Foods stated: “In November catastrophic rains devastated communities and washed away generations of agricultural work in BC…..” he then went on to talk about how Save on Foods was supporting the farms through this difficult time. Now looking at this story in the commercial, Daryl is telling us about the farm land and the rains that happened in BC last summer. His words were saying that the rains were what caused the floods. But Daryl wasn’t telling us the whole story, he has left out some major key points to this story.

Daryl’s lesson did talk about the harm to farmlands and rain. What his lesson did not talk about was the lake that the farm lands were built upon. The lake that the settlers decided was in the way of their farming. In the mid 1920’s settlers decided to pump out the water of the lake every day, 24/7 so that they could put farmland on the lake bed. The settlers thought it was a great idea to move a lake, pump it out every day, year after year after year, so that they could farm the land. It was said that they still found sturgeon in farmers crops years after they drained the lake. Sumas Lake in 1923-24 was one of the biggest fresh water wetlands in all of BC. The area was prone to terrible flooding and massive swarms of mosquitoes. When settlers drained the lake with massive large pumps, they destroyed the only way of life for the local Indigenous nation of the Sumas people. The lake was home to massive lake sturgeon, trout and colonies of birds not seen again in southern BC since the lake was drained by a series of canals, dams and pump houses that still operate today. Daryl did not mention that in his lesson. Daryl also forgot to mention that the atmospheric rivers of rain were cause by the climate emergency we are in today on this planet. He just said catastrophic rains. Missing out some very critical points that should be taught about and learned about.

I used this commercial as an entry point into talking about what happens when we miss critical points in our lessons when we teach. If we had only ever heard Daryl’s version of what happen, how would be ever know the true story of this land? Being critical educators, we need to add into Daryl’s lesson plan, the history of the people of this land, the land and lake itself and also speak to the climate emergency we are in. This is how we become critical educators and make sure that we are teaching the truth about this land.

From talking with people that live around the area known as Sumas prairie today, so many had no idea that the Sumas prairie was actually Sumas Lake. Some books to learn more about the lake and the importance of it for the Indigenous people of this territory are, Before We Lost the Lake, A Natural and Human History of Sumas Valley by Chad Reimer and Semá:th X̱ó:tsa Sts’ólemeqwelh Sx̱ó:tsa (Semá:th X̱ó:tsa: Great-Gramma’s Lake) which can be found at the Sto:lo gift store or on youtube. https://youtu.be/cRKyUZTEptE

Let me know your thoughts..

I will write again soon.

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