Democracy has an important place in Jennifer Herrod's classroom at Silverwood Heights School.
And the way in which she shares her passion for the values embodied in parliamentary democracy is helping her students learn about the importance of democracy in Canadian society, the need to show respect for others and their responsibilities as they grow as citizens.
"I have planned lessons and activities that are actively helping students become engaged members in our own democracy. Canadian government is not mentioned in the Grade 3 Saskatchewan curriculum, but what is (mentioned) is teaching what good citizenship looks like and feels like," she said.
"Our students need choice in order to feel their voices are heard and to be successful. This will help students understand and make connections, for they are our future voters, upcoming parliamentarians, potential Order of Canada winners and current and hopeful world-changers."
Noah, one of Herrod's former students, says the use of democratic principles in the classroom is one way in which students can have a say in their learning.
"You have more freedom in what you do and it is easier to learn that way. I also think when you have been given a freedom you also have been placed with the responsibility to do your job. Earning freedom is a right," he said. "Miss Herrod has a choice part during language arts and we got to choose the activities we did. We shared knowledge and understanding. We also choose what we write and read."
The participation of students in developing a classroom treaty at the beginning of the school year is a first step in the learning. The treaty is a commitment agreed to by both students and teacher on how they will learn together and teach each other.
"It is the rules and expectations of everyone in the classroom so that everyone knows their job. If you don't do your job then you break the treaty," explained Madison, adding that the treaty applies whether students are inside or outside of their classroom.
"We decided as a class what rules should be on it and we each put a Lego piece on the Lego treaty to show our commitment to it. If the Lego treaty get broken we have to rebuild it."
Herrod's passion for learning and teaching democratic principles has seen her attend a teachers' session at the Saskatchewan Legislature as well as the Teacher's Institute on Parliamentary Democracy that brought 70 educators from across the country to Ottawa in November 2017. Participants had the opportunity to visit the House of Commons and Senate, learn from parliamentarians and others involved in the democratic process and governance, and share ideas with their fellow teachers.
"Every day my brain was filled with information. Teachers got political with their questions about the issues that concerned each of us, education and Aboriginal rights being the topics of concern," she said. "This opportunity allowed us to share our thoughts in a safe environment and to be respected for our opinions, even if they differ from that of our leaders. This also needs to apply in our classrooms."
Listening to the banter and the exchange of ideas and positions among MPs during question period in the House of Commons, and having the opportunity to take part in a mock question period with fellow participants, is an experience Herrod has shared with her own students to illustrate how decisions are made.
"People in government make decisions about Canada. There are two sides that argue back and forth to help decide," said student Karina. "People in Canada get to vote for who gets in Parliament and helps to make up the government. Having choice makes life better."
The opportunity to learn from legislators and those in government while doing it alongside other teachers informs the learning that Herrod shares with her students and emphasizes the need for students, even in elementary school, to be knowledgeable and engaged about the rights and responsibilities as citizens in a democracy.
"We all wish for a better Canada," Herrod said, "and together we must work alongside each other to achieve those goals."