Dr. Frank J. Hayden Secondary School and Aldershot School have spent this school year collaborating with an Indigenous leader to create murals that hang in their libraries as a teaching tool.
Monique Aura, a guest artist of Oneida descent, spent time with students and staff from both Burlington schools to design and create the murals.
The murals visually demonstrate both schools ongoing commitment to valuing English as a Second Language (ESL)/English Language Learners (ELL) students' cultural diversity and recognizes ongoing learning about Indigenous culture and honoring the land.
The artwork features images, symbols and words that represent the students and schools who participated. For example, the Aldershot mural shows a lion, while the Hayden mural includes a wolf, each representing the schools' mascots.
"I was inspired by a similar project undertaken at Aldershot School by Teacher Librarian Karen Weber," says Bryn Dewar, teacher librarian at Dr. Frank J. Hayden Secondary School. "I loved that the ESL class worked on the project and thought this would be a great opportunity to further engage our English learners and newcomers with the library, since their daily classes are based here. I also wanted to find ways of partnering with Indigenous artists and community members, and collaborate with different program areas, to embed ongoing learning about First Nations cultures for our students."
Planning for these murals began in the fall and painting started in the spring.
"The project enables students to recognize the contributions of Indigenous peoples to Canada including the cultural development of the country," says Laura Sgambelluri, Hayden's program lead for ESL, French and Arts. "With the collaboration of Monique Aura, students shared information with each other about their own languages and cultures, and about their experiences of their native countries and as newcomers to Canada. Together, students developed their intercultural awareness, strengthening their personal identity and weaving together Indigenous and newcomer identities and stories."
Karen Weber, Teacher Librarian at Aldershot High School, was part of a group that enlisted the help of Aura to create the other mural at the school. The goal, she says, was to honour the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, specifically, those related to Education for Reconciliation (Articles 62 and 63). A grant application was made with the help of Aldershot School ELL students.
"By co-creating this mural, newcomer students have an opportunity to look back and learn about our local First Nations communities," says Weber. "They are also encouraged to see themselves in the present at Aldershot as a positive change within the school."
Students were amazed at how the murals turned out and what they represented.
Erkan Ahmetoglu, a Grade 10 student at Hayden, included in the mural the importance of the stars in the Turkish flag of their home country.
"It's important to me to understand First Nations because I am new here, and learning about Indigenous peoples' culture and heritage helps me understand what being Canadian means."