Collaborating on incredible projects like this is extra special to us, and this one is quite unique.
A new multi-use Learning Centre called the “Aki Centre”, or “Land Centre”, for short, (full name is Ozhaawashkwaa Animikii-Bineshi Aki Onji Kinimaagae’ Inun, or Blue Thunderbird Land-Based Teachings Learning Centre) in Winnipeg, Canada, has given Kindergarten to Grade 12 students access to First Nations land-based, cross-curricular educational opportunities within The Seven Oaks School Division. The center is surrounded by 49 acres of natural and agricultural grounds for community and classroom extensions to land-based learning. It shares a combination of Indigenous and western perspectives around historic and cultural connections to the land, environmental stewardship, sustainable food production, and nutrition.
As the goals of the project and Natural Pod’s educational, cultural and environmental values were so tightly aligned, we were the centre’s choice to outfit the main teaching building, and what a beautiful space it is. Everyone involved is thrilled with the results, which you can see in the photos below.
This unique place is enjoyed by students and the broader community and is positioned on the traditional land of Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota and Dene Peoples and the homeland of the Métis Nation. The Seven Oaks School Division is very clear about this privilege, stating ‘We are grateful for the opportunity to live and learn on these traditional lands and are committed to reshaping our relationships with the land and with each other in a spirit of reconciliation.”
When it comes to programming, educational themes and topics are informed and guided by Education for Sustainable Development, Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and the Earth Charter. Engagements include and expand upon three core themes: sustainable food production and nutrition, environmental stewardship, and cultural and historic connection to the land.
Sustainable Food Production and Nutrition:
Students will engage in growing food from seed, planting and maintaining a mixed garden, creating compost, seed-saving, and maintaining soil health. Students will engage in cooking and will celebrate the food they have grown.
Less than 1% of the original tall grass prairie remains in Manitoba. Students will witness the process of restoring Indigenous tall grass prairie to 30 acres of land and will learn from the model Remnant Prairie on-site. Students will participate in the care, observations and monitoring required for stewardship. Hands-on water stewardship is fostered through the on-site Naturalized Stormwater Retention Pond, the Grassmere Drain and broader watershed topics and action, including water monitoring and sampling. Divisional-Composting via the in-vessel, commercial composting system (BIOvator) will find a new location at the Learning Centre with greater accessibility for student learning and enhancing compost education delivery.
Cultural and Historic Connection to Land:
Land, language and culture are linked. Students will continue to deepen awareness and understanding of the historical and cultural connection between people and land, learning Indigenous worldviews on the growing of food, Medicine Wheel Teachings, Seven Sacred Teachings and the value of learning through the sacredness of the Indigenous Circle Philosophy. Students will explore the connections we have to the land and dedicate themselves to reshaping connections to the land and to each other in a spirit of stewardship, reconciliation and celebration.
It would be truly wonderful to see more Land-Based Teaching Centres be developed across Canada and the United States where young people and the community can learn more about the traditional lands they inhabit, and deepen their awareness and understanding of the historical and cultural connection between people and land.
Thank you to Seven Oaks School Division and the Ozhaawashkwaa Animikii-Bineshi Aki Onji Kinimaagae’ Inun.