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Teachable moment from Kamloops

June 15, 2021


Jessica Sellin’s Grade 10 English class drew 215 hearts on the front sidewalk of Ecole Camrose Composite High School to represent the 215 children who lost their lives at the Kamloops Indian Residential School.


Following the discovery of children’s remains at a former residential school in Kamloops, how did you turn this tragic news into a teachable moment in your classroom? 

Stefánia Maria Lund

Though I’m currently a substitute, I have always taught about residential schools to our little learners (three and four year olds). I have been continuing my own learning, reading pretty much anything I can and finding ways for me to help with reconciliACTION. I have been sharing my resources and our district’s resources with anyone who has been asking for them.

During my substitute teaching last week, I was able to open up that discussion with an online kindergarten classroom because it’s so important. Even as a substitute teacher I have the opportunity to have these important conversations. I want the children to know that it isn’t just their teacher who needs to have these sometimes hard conversations, but all of us need to be able to use moments such as this and turn it around into a teachable moment. 

Gary Smith

I have been reviewing my sources of information and learning to share with staff and students — some tough reading but so enlightening.


Quinn Healy

We have framed our humanities year with an Indigenous lens and so this tragic news gave my Grade 4s and I more to talk about, more to grieve. We acknowledged these children, talked about our big feelings and then we celebrated Indigenous joy through picture books, the lessons taught and then a continued discussion, well past the week of “wearing orange.”

Shala Vollman-Taki

I teach kindergarten and we read Phyliss’s Orange Shirt again, we talked about residential schools again and how these schools were really different a long time ago. The people did not treat the kids with love and kindness like our school does. I told them that many children died and lots didn’t come home. I told them that 215 of those lost children were found buried. This made us sad. We stopped and had a prayer circle, everyone took turns praying to God and asking Him to keep those children safe. We went and collected 10 rocks each and painted them orange.


Sabrina Miller

I made a Google slide talking about strictly numbers (150,000: the number of children who attended a residential school; 4: the average age at which children were removed from their families, etc.) until I got to 3, the youngest age believed to be in the mass grave. I had a lot of kids say “I have a little brother/sister/cousin that age.” My kids really need the wow factor, and I think some of the numbers really surprised them (139: the number of residential schools in Canada; 165: the number of years residential schools were open; 1996: the year the last residential school was closed).

Annie Greeno

We spent all week learning from and listening to survivor stories through picture books and short films. Students took opportunities every day to express their feelings through little art and writing activities. Here is some of it displayed on our bulletin board with 215 hearts.


Tracy Welke

We’ve been learning about the Seven Sacred Teachings all year. Our leadership students created a small memorial in front of our school. Following the news, our class read Stolen Words and had a talking circle to share the students’ thoughts and feelings about what was happening. Today, our school will pay tribute to the 215 lives with a special ceremony. We will all wear orange. My students are in Grade 6 and we often talk about our history and unfair treatment. Students are aware of the 94 calls to action.

Sam LC

We’ve been learning about the Seven Sacred Teachings and connecting Grandmother Turtle to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We read “When I was 8” and “Shin-chi’s Canoe” and then created our virtual heart garden. ❚


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