Academy week gives Sunchild First Nation students new learning opportunities

Sunchild First Nation School students get the opportunity to do anything from computer programming to horseback riding to cultural activities during academy week, a hands-on learning experience.

Deanna Jackson, a junior and senior student services teacher in the community 150 kilometres southwest of Edmonton, took a group of five students to a riding academy in nearby Rocky Mountain House, Alta., where they got to do English and Western-style horseback riding and learn about horse care.

“It really allows them to build their self-confidence,” she said.

“When you get to go out and get a 1,200-pound horse to do what you want it to do, that’s really building up that self-esteem.”

There are four weeks during the school year where students in Grades 10-12 sign up to participate in an academy. The special projects allow students to explore their interests and career options. Computer programming, 3-D printmaking, robotics and paddle-making are some of the options. 

“This allows our students to receive high school credits in CTS courses or special projects,” she said.

“It gives our students the opportunity to explore different activities . . . that we aren’t able to accommodate on a full-time basis as we are a small school and somewhat isolated.”

Students learn how to pick and prepare mint leaves for tea. (Sunchild First Nation School/Facebook)

Cultural activities happen at a camp near Baptiste River the school set up for land-based learning.

“We are a very culturally-based community,” said Angie Goodrunning, director of education.

“We’ve always offered these types of activities. It’s just that we hired a land-based instructor so we’re able to offer these classes year-round.”

Students learn how to prepare mint at Sunchild First Nation School. (Sunchild First Nation School/Facebook)

Students at the culture camp were learning how to gather wild mint and make choke-cherry candy. The mint leaves are put in a pot and boiled for mint tea on a fire pit with three poles, while the choke-cherries are separated from the stems and crushed on stone.

Clint McHugh, Sunchild First Nations councillor, said academy week encourages students to explore beyond the classroom.

“It gives them a different perspective outside of regular school. It gives them extra credit, and it’s a big bonus,” he said.

The school’s next academy is Nov. 22.

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