New educational kit supports early childhood activities with Métis themes


The objects look simple. Hand-sized swatches of organza. Coloured paper. A star-shaped hole punch. A blanket and rolled socks. But the meaning they hold can be transformative.

The educational kit of supplies and a colourful booklet of activities uses M&e#180;tis history to engage young children in physical activities, literacy and art, helping build cultural awareness as well as healthy lifelong habits.

"This project facilitates the opportunity for our children to experience a natural M&e#180;tis consciousness," says M&e#180;tis elder Patricia Ekland. "Children take pride in being M&e#180;tis, both within our M&e#180;tis community and within the broad community."

Co-developed by UVic's Centre for Early Childhood Research and Policy (CECRP) and the Island M&e#180;tis Family and Community Services Society, the kit uses the Red River cart journeys as a centerpiece. The M&e#180;tis developed the cart; the first wheeled transportation on the Canadian Prairies, and used them extensively in their nomadic lives.

Activities, suitable for children aged three to eight, include teamwork (bouncing the rolled socks on a blanket trampoline), tossing and catching organza 'clouds' and creative play such as imagining a starry night on the Prairies while listening to poetry.

Culturally relevant activities have been shown to help interest young children in physical play. Sound motor and physical development influences social, emotional and cognitive development that extends into adulthood and can help prevent chronic health issues, says co-author Dr. Beverly Smith, CECRP associate director.

"Experiences in early childhood impact a lifetime," says Smith.

Co-author Ramona Carlson, who is of Musqueam and Qualicum decent, runs a play group for children up to six years of age who have complex behavior issues such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and sees the resource as helping families play actively together.

Carlson had earlier taken the Healthy Opportunities For Preschoolers program, developed by UVic's School of Exercise, Physical and Health Education, and thought about how to make the activities M&e#180;tis-specific.

"I wanted to include the Red River in the activities and also Batoche, Saskatchewan, where a lot of the M&e#180;tis people originated and held camp, also the landmark where the federal government battled the M&e#180;tis forces led by Louis Riel."

The M&e#180;tis resource, which is supported by training for those who work with young children and family members, is just one of the initiatives that the CECRP has undertaken in collaboration with Aboriginal communities in BC to promote healthy physical activity.

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Keywords: education, children, Centre for Early Childhood Research and Policy, Indigenous, community

People: Beverly Smith, Patricia Ekland

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