If there is one thing we have learned during our time if Fort Providence, it is to expect the unexpected! Our plans for Week 5 were changed up when the boat trip we were supposed to be attending was sadly cancelled due to the ice still moving up the Mackenzie from Great Slave Lake. While we would have loved to experience such a special trip with our students and the opportunity to learn more about where and how the original families of Fort Providence lived off the land from elders, we are excited that the students still get to experience the trip in warmer weather and without the possibility of being trapped out on the water! For those of you who voiced your concern about Annelise’s aptitude for camping, it was much appreciated! You’re going to have to wait a little while longer to witness the phenomenon of Annelise sleeping in a tent. We were able to use the extra time in the classroom to our advantage and delve more in depth to the incredibly important topics we had planned for the next two weeks.
During week 5 with the Kindergartens, we talked about emotions, sleep, and self-regulation. We also were able to go on a walk around Fort Providence with them that consisted of lots of splashing in puddles and hugs.
In the 2-3 class, we had the chance to talk about sleep and focused on the benefits of bed time routines and ways to help ourselves fall asleep, especially as it continues to stay light into the night as summer approaches. We had a very productive week with the grade 4-5 class. We finished our lesson on puberty, talked about things we can control and can’t control, as well as ways to improve our self-regulation at times when it is hard. We had students colour beautiful mandalas we printed for them at the end of the lesson, as an example of calming and quiet things to do that can help us regulate and control ourselves when lots of “things we can’t control” are frustrating or distracting.
We continued the week by talking about substance use and abuse. In this lesson, students drew substances they knew and categorized them into legal, illegal, and sometimes-legal (depending on age and place) columns. We then focused in on the most frequently mentioned substances, such as alcohol and smoking. Another fun activity for this lesson was having students do jumping jacks while holding their breath for as long as they could. When they were all tired much more quickly than they would have been if they weren’t holding their breath, we explained that the sensation is similar to that of how a frequent smoker feels when they try to complete daily tasks. Finally, we also had the chance to speak about the importance of mental health with the 4-5s. We all got comfy on the couch and rug and discussed the importance of mental health, mental illness, and some self-care ideas. The students coloured and completed a worksheet we created where they wrote and drew things they like about themselves and little things that can help them feel better on days where their mental health isn’t on the “great” end of the spectrum.
In the 6-7 class, we had another Q&A session with boys and girls separately before starting to talk about sexual health. We also chose to split up the boys and girls for this lesson which was a great way to talk about this relevant and integral topic in smaller groups with a ton of student engagement. We did a brief review of puberty, talked about the male and female reproductive systems, consent, contraceptives, and STIs over the course of two days with the class. While this topic can be scary and uncomfortable, we were really pleased with how the lessons went and the great questions we were getting! We had a second Q&A session that week with our extra time to go over all the anonymous questions in the Question Box with extra detail and clarify any points that were still unclear for students. We finally moved on to substance use and abuse, discussing health implications, laws, and facts regarding this topic. In the high school class, we also focused on substances. We felt that this conversation went over really well, especially since we were able to relate to the students as peers which allowed them to ask so many amazing questions. We also even had some participation during class when some students volunteered to demonstrate the recovery position for the class!
With the week being jam packed full of planning and teaching, we were still able to participate in some fun after school activities! On Thursday we were invited to Kyle’s class for “Hockey Night in Prov”, to watch the hockey game streamed on the smart board with the grade 6-7 students. The night was complete with plenty of snacks and a W for the St. Louis Blues (who Emily was cheering for). On Friday, we made it to the Youth Centre for a community dinner, and had the chance to have some amazing discussions and answer health related questions with our older students! We were so glad that they trusted us enough to freely ask us more about some of the things we had talked about in class earlier that week.
Besides our accomplishments in the classroom, we also finished our lanyards with Charlene’s help and were able to sport them proudly around the school for our last weeks of teaching! We absolutely loved and are so grateful for the opportunity we had to learn to bead, and can’t wait to put our skills to use in the future. At the end of the week, we were also kindly gifted some Deh Gah School merch which we can’t wait to sport back at Queen’s!
We had a laid-back weekend that consisted of planning and for our last week in the community, catching up on sleep, and hanging out around the house, as it was rainy and overcast outside for a majority of the weekend. On Sunday, we once again were invited to Kyle & Grant’s house to watch the Raptors game with some of the teachers, before getting to bed early in preparation for a busy week 6 of initiative!
During the beginning of week 6, we finished up our last few concepts and focused on reviewing all we had taught during our time in Fort Prov! We completed our final lessons on mental health with the grade 6-7 and high school classes, where we explained that mental health is on a spectrum and included many informative videos to capture the student’s attention for this super important topic! We were able to play “QHO Review Hangman” with the 4-5s, and also had students create a poster showcasing their favourite health topic that we discussed. The posters ranged from self-esteem, to nutrition, to hygiene, to mental health, and looked fabulous displayed in the school for the students to reference their own learning! With the K-1 and 2-3 classes, we ended up using the week to say goodbye and spend some time playing with the students outside on the playground. Spending our final classes with fun, laughter, and plenty of hugs was so amazing, and also allowed us to get some physical activity in outside.
We were both incredibly excited to receive gorgeous beaded key chains from Charlene! We are both absolutely in love with the intricate design, and can’t get over Charlene’s talent. Annelise was also very excited to finally purchase a pair of beaded moccasins from Charlene, which fit perfectly, and she had been yearning for during the entire initiative!
On Wednesday and Thursday, we headed to Hay River for the NWT track meet. Approximately 1300 students from all across the territory gathered for a fun few days of sport! On the way to the meet, Wayne pulled over the van so that we could take in the spectacular views at Enterprise Falls, which we absolutely loved.
Track and field allowed us to spend lots of time with all of our students in attendance, and also let us explore the NWT other major centre besides Yellowknife: Hay River. While chaotic at times, the two days we spent at track and field included trips to swim at the pool in the arena facility; movies at the theatre; students picking out some things to buy at the dollar store; lots of time running around on the playground playing equipment tag; some questionable water balloons; lots of running, throwing, jumping, and cheering; a little bit of running on our part after some students who decided to leave the group; and only one student locking themselves in a fridge! It was certainly an eventful two days, that were highlighted by the Olympic-style opening ceremonies (complete with the lighting of a torch and parade of schools), and watching all of our students give their all in each event they participated in! We were so proud of them for finishing each race with a smile and cheering each other on throughout the two days of track and field!
On Thursday night, we headed back to Fort Providence to pack to leave the next day and try to get to bed as early as possible before our final goodbyes on Friday. While we were busy throughout the day thanking all of the staff for welcoming us to the school and Fort Providence without hesitation, we spent most of our time in each class throughout the day answering the final questions in our Question Box and hanging out with our kind, resilient, smart, funny, and open students for one final time before we had to leave that evening.
Right after school, as a final send off, all the students gathered with us at the dock and watched and cheered as Emily jumped into the freezing cold Mackenzie River before leaving. It was so nice to say even more goodbyes at this time, and it was such a special moment to also say goodbye to the wonderful community of Fort Providence! Mel was ready with his car warmed up and kindly dropped us off at our house to tie up all of our loose ends before cruising to Yellowknife and arriving at our cute Airbnb (Annelise was in love with the décor). We were absolutely exhausted, but managed to grab a quick bite to eat and watch the end of the Raptors game at Boston Pizza. We headed back to our accommodations and took the evening to debrief and reflect on the past 6 weeks, and also celebrate all of our accomplishments in Fort Providence.
Saturday gave us the opportunity to sleep in and explore the city of Yellowknife. We grabbed lattes and breakfast at a Yellowknife coffee shop and explored the downtown area walking by the water in the sunshine. We spent our morning at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, which had so many interesting exhibits about the complex and extensive history of Northern Canada and the Northwest Territories. It was super cool to read about and see the historical importance of Fort Providence and surrounding areas at the museum! We made our way down to Old Town and popped into a few art galleries before finally climbing Pilot’s Monument for incredible views of Yellowknife. We topped off a fun day with a delicious dinner at the Woodyard, a great spot recommended to us by many people in Fort Providence, before heading to bed early for our 6 am flight home.
We are writing this blogpost in anticipation of arriving in Toronto after a long travel day, and are still in awe of the experience we were lucky enough to have in Fort Providence. We are so grateful for the community members, staff of Deh Gah Elementary and Secondary school, and students for welcoming us with open arms. While we feel that we were able to facilitate so many effective health discussions, our students truly taught us more than we could have ever imagined. If not for the input and feedback from incredible teachers, support workers, community members, RCMP officers, and Health Centre staff, we would never have been able to effectively do our job – we value their openness and honesty beyond words, and their acceptance for QHO’s mission and purpose were integral parts of our experience on initiative, and something we do not take lightly.
We have so many thank-yous, and could go on about each person we encountered that insurmountably impacted us for hours, however we would love to take the chance to shout-out some people we got to know during our time in Prov that made us feel especially welcomed and supported!
- Mel, for being the first to invite us over into his home outside of school to game night, and also always being a set of listening ears for our many questions, ideas, and thought processes during initiative!
- Charlene, for reaching out to us and giving us a unique appreciation for the natural beauty of Fort Providence and its surrounding areas, and also for sharing her incredible bead work with us. We will both treasure our key chains and moccasins for years to come, and will certainly be reminded of not only Charlene and her kindness, but also Fort Providence whenever we admire them!
- Kyle & Grant for inviting us over continually to keep up with the sports world during our time.
- All the teachers for the supporting us in the classroom, sharing with us which topics they believed were most relevant, and taking time out of their day to continuously encourage us! Also fitting us and our health lessons in to an already jam-packed schedule while trying to finish their curriculum before the end of the year.
- Jonas, for facilitating so much of our learning surrounding the Deh Cho Dene culture at both Spring Camp, and even casually in the staff room. He not only taught us so much about the land and the Dene way of life, but also allowed us to make our lessons more culturally relevant by answering our many questions!
- Jason, for welcoming us to the Youth Centre after school (and letting us use the wifi!). We spent so much time in this very special place with our students and really connected with them on a more personal level here, which we will forever be grateful for.
- Marie and Jordan, for their openness and honesty, and being more than willing to meet with us to discuss our programming upon our arrival in Fort Providence. They gave us great insight to the community which helped us in our role as PEs immensely.
- Lois, for going above and beyond to ensure that we were able to be out on the land and learn more about the Dene culture. We are also thankful that she took the time to discuss with us how we can play a positive role in reconciliation going forward.
- And last but certainly not least, our incredible students who we will remember for their positivity, engagement, determination, and, above all, their acceptance for us into their lives. While we had some incredible discussions about health and were able to hopefully answer some pertinent questions they had, our students continuously taught us so many new things, and we feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to learn from them! Our students were truly our favourite part of Fort Providence, and we will be thinking of them often.
Reflecting on our experience, it is nearly impossible to sum up with words. We are both so fortunate to have so many amazing memories from the past 6 weeks with us for the rest of our lives. We have both learned and grown so much, and looking back on initiative, we wouldn’t have changed anything about the past 6 weeks for the world! We will never forget the beautiful natural landscape along the Mackenzie, the graciousness and hospitality of all members of the community, and the countless experiences that have forever imprinted on us. From the bottom of our hearts, mahsi cho to the entire community of Fort Providence!
Signing off one final time, catch us reminiscing about our time in Fort Prov,
Annelise & Emily xoxo