One of the most powerful learning experiences regarding Canada’s past and indigenous history comes from the KAIROS Blanket Exercise. This exercise is a teaching tool to share the broad history of indigenous peoples in Canada, the treaty relationship with European settlers, and the intergenerational effects of colonization and assimilation. It provides a simulation of the historical timeline, allowing participants a learning experience that is interactive appealing to auditory, kinesthetic, and visual learners.
I led this exercise during my internship with grade 6 and 7 students. We had previously been discussing the history of the treaty relationship in Canada and how this relationship has had an effect on contemporary issues. Some of the students were left feeling a sense of motivation to help others while some felt the emotional connection to their own family’s history and indigenous roots.
(Top middle) picture shown above is a representation of indigenous peoples who have experienced the loss of their land, culture, and rights. It is a powerful visual representation that allows students to truly perceive a history that has been ignored. The other pictures show the folding up of blankets (representing loss) and the beginning of the exercise (representing full, vibrant culture of people). Following the exercise, we discussed of what we just experienced. I explained to the students that this is not just for students in elementary school – University students, teachers, and people alike are also impacted by the experience. One of the students suggested we being a social action project to contribute to reconciliation. Another student shared her family’s background with residential schools. It seemed to bring the classroom community together – all students allowed each other to speak and share their thoughts. I recommend all teacher share this experience with their students.