Week One in Fort Providence: Art, Baking, & Ice Breaking!

And just like that, our first week in Fort Providence is over! This week was filled with laughter, learning both inside and outside the classroom, and getting to know the wonderful community here. After a 24-hour travel day, we landed in Yellowknife and went straight to the grocery store to stock our fridge for the next six weeks! We then made the trek from Yellowknife to Fort Providence, in a speedy 3 hours. On the way, we were lucky enough to take in the beautiful natural landscape of the Northwest Territories, and we even saw two lynx and some pretty cool birds!

            When we finally arrived, we got the keys to our little home away from home in Fort Prov, and discovered that it features a sauna, which needless to say, we were pretty thrilled about! After unpacking and phoning home to let our friends and family know that we made it, we quickly fell asleep before waking up bright and early to meet the wonderful staff of Deh Gáh Elementary and Secondary School at 8.30 am on Monday morning. We spent Monday establishing a schedule for our time in each class, and getting to know everyone we would be working with for the next six weeks. We also were able to make it to the Health Centre where we had a super informative conversation surrounding the resources and services it provides.

            We began teaching on Tuesday, and over the week we had many successful lessons to kick things off and start to get to know the students from each grade, as well as the health topics they are interested in learning about! We focused on respect, friendship, and bullying in the K-1, 2-3, and 4-5 classes. We also taught a lesson on strangers and safety in the 2-3 class, which we felt resonated very well with the students. We were super excited when they found us after school and reminded us to always be with a BUDDY when in the community, keep personal information a SECRET, YELL & RUN, TELL a trusted adult, and PHONE the RCMP if a stranger makes them feel unsafe! Each key word was associated with a finger on their hand to help them remember, and we’re so happy this worked! After school on Tuesday, we had a blast playing grounders with some of the students from the 4-5 class.

            We focused on self-esteem with the 6-7 and 8-9 classes. We were very grateful to participate in an art class led by the awesome team from TakingITGlobal and Connected North, that focused on well-being. Artist Miigizi led the workshop via telecommunication conference, which was such a wonderful opportunity for the students and ourselves to be immersed in. You can learn more about Nyle and his incredible work here: https://miigizi.com/pages/artist-introduction. We were able to tie the painting into our lesson on self-esteem in the 8-9 class, and discuss the importance of self-care! It was super cool to see that the whole class was excited for the upcoming Spring Camp, which they all told us was very important for their well-being and self-care! We also had a great time talking about sleep (which funnily enough, we were both in desperate need of by the end of the week) with the grade 6-7s! We had students write on sticky notes how many hours of sleep they get on average, and how many hours they think they should be getting to create a visual for them. We also talked about the benefits of getting sleep and the effects on the body of not getting enough sleep.

            In high school classes, we loved being able to participate in their fitness class each day, and got to know a few of the students while doing some baking in preparation for the art show Friday after school! We are excited to start discussing health with them in the upcoming week, as they indicated interest in so many awesome and important health topics!

            The highlight of our week was helping set up for an art show happening at the school on Friday night! The show was a great experience in which members from the community beyond the school, including elders and community leaders, and students alike all came together for. The show featured art by Fort Providence artist Johnny Farcy, and launched an interactive education-based deck of cards that every student was given to promote the Dene Zhatie language and culture, while strengthening a connection to the land. We loved learning about the Dene Zhatie culture from our students and guest speakers at this event, and were excited to be invited to participate in a traditional dance with traditional drumming and prayer!

            After the art show we prepared plates with the abundance of leftover baking to give to elders in the community, and headed over to the Youth Centre for a community dinner. We loved seeing our students after school and hanging out with them for a couple of hours, while enjoying some delicious dinner prepared by the students and Jason, the Youth-Centre co-ordinator. We also had the opportunity to meet with Jason on Saturday over some delicious protein shakes after a great workout at the gym in the Centre, and we’re excited to partner with the Youth Centre and Jason to promote health for the remainder of our initiative in Fort Prov!

            Throughout the week, we watched the ice on the Mackenzie River break more and more each day. We marveled at the drastic changes each day brought on our walks to and from school! We have also been able to pet so. many. dogs on our walks to and from school, and had the opportunity one day to take some quick pics on the ice. We’ve only gotten lost once since we’ve been here, which if you know us, is a huge win! It snowed a couple times this week, and we’re keeping our eyes out for the Northern lights and a bison that is reportedly wandering around the community! We are so excited to establish and work towards our goals for the 5 weeks to come! Stay tuned for our weekly updates as we continue to talk about health here in beautiful Fort Providence!

Your favourite Fort Prov twins/sisters (as the students like to call us) sending all of our love,

Annelise & Emily

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