Grade 6 Students Explore Stories of Turtle Island
By Elana Moscovitch, Guidance Counselor
I walked by the Grade 6 classroom recently and saw an amazing poster hanging on the wall. It was a picture of a turtle’s back. Inside the drawing of the turtle were brown hexagons, to represent the markings on a turtle’s shell, that opened up like cards. Inside each card, there was a question on one side and on the other side was the answer. I loved the interactive nature of this project, so I interviewed the students and their teacher, Savannah, to find out how it came about.
Merrie said, “Savannah read us a creation story called Big Turtle about the Indigenous perspective on how Turtle Island was created. When I found out we were going to do research on Turtle Island and Indigenous Peoples, I thought we could draw a big turtle to put our information on.”
Merrie, who loves turtles, shows me a picture of a box turtle on the internet and points to the hexagonal markings on its back.
Sophie said, “We had just come back from the honey extraction workshop at Linden and we learned that hexagons fit together well and that’s why bees use them to build their beehives, so they waste as little space as possible when they make their honey.” Sophie added, “we could fit more information on the turtle’s back if we used hexagons, and we also chose the hexagonal shape because it was like the markings on a turtle’s back.”
Each student researched topics about Indigenous histories and communities in Canada that interested them. They developed specific questions, found information on related sources, and made conclusions based on the information to answer their questions. For example, Merrie asked about residential schools, Sophie found out about plant-based medicines and Jahnavi learned about Inuit language(s) and children’s daily lives. Students’ curiosities and wonders guided many of their research questions.
This project was part of the grade 6 inquiry unit Communities in Canada: Past and Present. Savannah explained the origins of the project from a social justice and curricular lens: “As a piece of looking at communities in Canada, we are acknowledging the Indigenous peoples who have been stewards of the land. All students come into inquiry units with different knowledge and experiences, and work as a community of learners to advance their shared knowledge together. This approach allows them to build on their existing understandings, by asking questions and finding information, and to find ways to connect with the themes and topics of inquiry.”
I love how interactive this display is, just like reading a pop-up book. As I open each hexagon, I learn more about Indigenous people and their history on Turtle Island. It also gives me a window into the different interests of each student in the class.