Loughborough Public School unveiled their new Indigenous-inspired outdoor teaching space on Wednesday, Jun. 19, 2019. The opening ceremony was hosted by Elder Georgina Riel, a member of the Batchewana First Nation of the Ojibway.
The event opened with parent Janza Giangrosso providing small gifts and thanks to both Riel and representatives of the Kingston-Cataraqui Rotary Club. Giangrosso said that without the support of the Rotary Club, creating the teaching space “would not have been possible.” Giangrosso had previously worked with the students of Loughborough Public School in facilitating First Nations learning experiences.
Earlier this year, the students created a mixed-media art piece called ‘From What Dish Do You Want to Feed Your Grandchildren From?’inspired by the treaty between the Anishinaabe, Mississauga and Haudenosaunee First Nations in 1701. Students also had the opportunity to learn some Ojibway.
Riel greeted the children in English, French, and Ojibway, and spoke to the crowd about the symbolic importance of the Medicine Wheel. The learning space was encircled with large rocks, with four of the rocks painted yellow, red, black, and white. Riel explained that the four quadrants of the circle represented the four quadrants of life. The rock at the eastern entrance of the circle was red, representing infancy and spring. The south part of the circle was marked by a yellow rock to represent youth and summer. The west rock was black, representing adulthood and fall, while the northern white rock represented the elder stage of life and winter season.
Inside the circle, there were smaller rocks, encircled by seven stones cut to look like tree trunks and inscribed with the seven values in Ojibwe teachings: Nibwaakaawin (Wisdom), Zaagi’idiwin (Love), Minaadendamowin (Respect), Aakode’ewin (Bravery), Gwayakwaadiziwin (Honesty), Dabaadendiziwin (Humility), and Debwewin (Truth).
The ceremony ended with the students taking a strawberry from a basket, then leaving a stone in the circle.