Pathways to learning vary from student to student, and one Trent teacher candidate is creating a career path uniquely her own by participating in a short-term study abroad field course program in Mexico offered through the Chanie Wenjack School of Indigenous Studies. Here, Chanelle Courville examined how Indigenous Peoples in Mexico are fighting colonization through sustainable living and educational reforms.
The power of community
In Oaxaca, Mexico, Chanelle took part in a variety of experiential opportunities including field trips and local tours, cultural events, free exploration of local communities, speaker conferences and lectures at Uniterra University. Her most impactful experience? Spending time in the small village of Lachatoa, where she was able to observe how the local community takes on education reforms in response to government regulations.
“Students spent their mornings visiting local abuelas (grandmothers) who specialized in medicinal gardening, and with farmers who used astronomy, math, and science to farm,” shares Chanelle. “The community of Lachatoa ensured their children were raised with sustainable practices through educational modes despite the Mexican government refusing all funding or access to school buildings as a result.”
By observing this type of education through the eyes of young children, Chanelle truly recognized the importance of sustainable living through Indigenous perspectives.
“The impact of this experience was immeasurable. I have learned many tools for incorporating sustainable living into all subjects of education. Indigenous culture pays the highest respect to the lands as an interconnected being to all life,” she explains.
A fresh perspective into creating confidence in the classroom
To understand the learner, and find ways to bring out the best qualities of each individual so they can be successful, educators must understand perspective: what barriers do students face before entering the classroom and what can be done to make the classroom a safe space for learning?
“I believe every teacher has the moral obligation to ensure students are taught in ways that increase their confidence, independence, and willingness to be educated. It is with these foundations that a new generation of people can experience equitable, intercultural learning that better understands Indigenous ways of knowing”, says Chanelle. “It is with this philosophy that a partnership, between myself as an educator and my students, can generate a community of individuals that work together to re-establish sustainability through education in the overall interconnectedness of life."
In September 2022, Chanelle was invited to join conversations with Canadian education executives at the Global Skills Opportunity (GSO) and Universities Canada education panel in Ottawa, where she presented her experience and the ways the program has enriched her own employment journey, skills and personal life.
As a pilot course, the opportunity was funded by the Government of Canada’s Global Skills Opportunity Program.
“Indigenous education reforms in Mexico have opened my eyes in so many ways, such as the universal positivity of Indigenous education, but also the fight to re-establish the connections between Indigenous."