Pond Inlet preschool wins national award for innovation
Pirurvik Preschool’s work “encompasses the unique lived experiences and language of Inuit,” says Gov. Gen. Mary Simon
A preschool from Pond Inlet is one of six recipients of the 2022 Governor General’s Innovation Awards.
Spearheaded by co-directors Tessa Lochhead and Jedidah Merkosak, the Pirurvik Preschool was honoured for its transformative early childhood education initiative that combines Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, Inuit traditional knowledge, and Inunnguinniq, traditional education for Inuit children, using Montessori methods.
An example of this work is the creation of a cultural corner in the classroom, where children can use a qamutik to pretend they are hunting. There’s another area where they can pretend to scrape sealskins to clean them.
The school’s work “encompasses the unique lived experiences and language of Inuit,” Gov. Gen. Mary Simon said in a virtual awards ceremony Thursday.
“The awards celebrate the work of innovators who are taking responsibility, are looking forward, and are reimagining what our country and our society could be,” Simon said.
For Lochhead, who started the preschool with Nunavut Arctic College instructor and Pond Inlet’s current MLA Karen Nutarak in 2016, receiving the award is a moment of pride for the preschool, but more importantly for parents and the larger community.
“We honestly would not have been able to do it without the parents’ drive and support and desire for quality early childhood education in Pond Inlet,” she said.
“That feeling of gratitude to the parents and the community is what’s most important to us.”
The preschool also received the $1 million Arctic Inspiration Prize in 2018. The goal was to expand programming for toddlers and infants in seven Nunavut communities including Clyde River, Cambridge Bay and Taloyoak, and eventually across the territory.
Nearly four years after receiving the prize, the work continues.
For co-director Merkosak, winning the Governor General Innovation Award shows the need for improved early childhood education in the territory.
“Children who have been enrolled in our preschool find it easier to get into kindergarten and get into the routine of being taught in schools,” she said.
“They learn so quickly … and it’s amazing to see them so quiet and teaching each other.”