A commitment to foster an inclusive community and contribute to the elimination of racial discrimination resulted in three schools receiving recognition as part of the City of Saskatoon's Living in Harmony Recognition Awards.
A Grade 8 classroom at Greystone Heights School, a Grade 6 student at École River Heights School, and the school-wide work of students and staff at Nutana Collegiate were acknowledged with awards announced March 19.
The awards, presented just ahead of the International Day to Eliminate Racial Discrimination, recognize outstanding achievements in contributing to the elimination of racial discrimination. They are part of the city's effort to support a community where ethnocultural diversity is welcomed and valued, and where everyone can live with dignity and pursue their full potential without facing racism or discrimination.
For students in Christine Loewen's Grade 8 class at Greystone Heights, the visual art submissions that received the award for Elementary Group Submission were an opportunity to have a voice in promoting an anti-racist/anti-oppressive society and a chance for each student to apply their knowledge, creativity, and artistic skills.
"An opportunity for a competition always increases my students' engagement," Loewen said. "We have invested a great deal of time discussing and analyzing important social issues such as BLM (Black Lives Matter), reconciliation, and inclusion for all. This tied right into what we were already doing in the classroom. When considering my students' future, I wanted to acknowledge who they are now and the effective role they can play as citizens in their community."
The students' artwork connected with classroom and school expectations around respect and inclusion; the curricular goals of assessing social issues; and the division's strategic plan of honouring diversity, focusing on equity, and enacting anti-racist and anti-oppressive practices, Loewen said.
Vanna Marquilencia, a Grade 6 student at River Heights, received recognition for Best Elementary Individual Submission. Her artwork promoting the elimination of racial discrimination illustrated the awards' theme of I Am The Bridge to Ending Racism through an image of children crossing a bridge as they move toward a happier community. Vanna, who has lived in Canada for only a year and half, was nominated by her EAL teacher, Levana Dutertre.
Nutana Collegiate received the Community Recognition Award for its overall commitment to a learning focus on anti-oppressive education, along with responsive and inclusive instructional and assessment strategies that result in a greater diversity of students engaged in class. Alongside is a commitment to seeing Indigenous knowledge, content, practices, and ceremonies that live and are celebrated in classroom learning and thrive in school community opportunities.
"While our school has a long-standing commitment to honour the diversity of all students, we have really begun within the last two years to both name our efforts in anti-racism and anti-oppression within our strategic plan and to focus our energies as a staff and student body in this direction," the school's nomination read.
"We have made anti-oppressive education and Indigenous knowledge representation integral parts of our school's strategic plan for 2020-2021. We have dared to say these things out loud where there is often silence, and we will stand by our commitments."
Activities and learning opportunities including a ribbon skirt making ceremony and school-wide Ribbon Skirt Day, displays that recognize Black History Month and Indigenous Storytelling Month, learning in the arts and music that honours diversity, and providing space for the sharing of Indigenous ways and knowledge in a variety of curricular areas are examples of how Nutana demonstrates its commitment to being a bridge to end racism.
The school has created an anti-racism support staff position and the ongoing work of its anti-oppressive education committee is laying a foundation for understanding anti-oppressive concepts "with an eventual goal of helping to continue moving our whole staff forward on this important issue."