Learning on the land

Iqaluit Grade 7 students take a turn at teaching their teachers.



IQALUIT — Grade 7 student Karen Flaherty says it made her feel good to turn the tables and teach her teachers.

The Iqaluit 12-year-old recently went on an overnight land trip with 11 of her Aqsarniit Middle School classmates at the cadet cabin, about an hour-and-a-half by snowmobile from Iqaluit.

“(The teachers) are not from here,” she said. “We can teach them stuff that they didn’t know before.”

Michel Savard, 13, agreed it was “funny watching the teachers learn.”

Hille Krumbholz, here on a teaching practicum from Germany, was one of the three school representatives who helped plan and conduct the trip.

“This is their environment and they can kind of teach us, but in school we teach them, so it’s kind of the other way around,” she said.

Teacher Rodney Corkum, the driving force behind the trip, admitted he learned a lot from his students and now sees them in a different light.

“Sometimes the skidoo would be stuck and the kids would tell me, ‘Ah, you have to do this to get it out,’ and I’d do that and it would work, so it’s nice for them to have that and see they have skills we don’t have,” he explained.

“I know more about the kids so I don’t take it so seriously, maybe, if they’re not doing their work at that particular time, because I see them as a whole person now, not just as a kid in math class.”

The group headed out on the land May 12, after months of preparatory work.

To raise money they held a wake-a-thon, in which they received donations for pledging to stay awake all night. They also had to budget, plan menus and shop for the food they would bring.

Math skills even came into play, Corkum said, as students calculated costs before making food purchases.

“They went to store to get prices per weight and then had to figure out, for example, how much five pounds of potatoes would be,” he said.

But Corkum said he wanted his class to go on this trip for another reason.

“It’s a chance I think for all the kids to come together as a community,” he said. “Because nothing is too hard or too easy, they can all participate no matter what their abilities are, to give them a chance to gel, to be community.”

The students agreed they got along well, but their memories were of different things.

Flaherty said it was ptarmigan hunting she enjoyed most, even though her group didn’t catch anything.

Savard said he, too, enjoyed the hunting.

“It’s fun and we need to learn about how our elders used to do stuff,” he said.

Classroom support assistant Nathan Duggan said he enjoyed seeing the kids in a more comfortable environment.

“I noticed a lot of them seemed a lot more responsible,” he said. “I learned a lot of different and new approaches the elders take with the kids. Just their general approach to motivate them.”

After baking bannock and making caribou stew, hunting for ptarmigan, attempting to ice-fish (the ice was too thick), sliding and spending a night on the land, all returned safely to Iqaluit.

Corkum said he’s hoping to take students on a blueberry-picking trip in the fall.

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