Another Calgary Learns funded project: Aboriginal Adult Learning Project at FESA
Nohkasstaapinaan Makookapiison Niitatskiniimatsoksspinaan
I Want to Further My Education/Learning - Blackfoot
Completing the final stages of the Aboriginal Adult Learning Project has been an exhilarating experience for the Further Education Society. We began with the vision of it being standard practice to invite traditional knowledge and Aboriginal perspective into programs. Our project aimed to offer Aboriginals enhanced pathways to success with programs that provided relevant and cultural resources. This vision for a changed learning landscape in Calgary has begun to be realized, thanks to the Aboriginal Adult Learning project being entirely driven and directed by the Aboriginal community, as well as through the diligent work of a pilot group of six organizations who put the recommendations of our Aboriginal advisors into action. Sokapii! (Good job) Aboriginal Futures, CanLearn, John Howard Society, Southwest Community Resource Centre, WalMart and Youville. The Aboriginal Adult Learning project was successful in increasing Calgary’s ability to facilitate educational success for Aboriginal foundational learners. Community learning programs implemented effective new practices that created stronger pathways to success.
Initially we pulled together about 75 highly successful Aboriginal people who had a broad experience and understanding of the struggles that Aboriginal learners face. We asked them how urban, adult programs and educational opportunities could be made more appealing to Aboriginal learners. With our advisory group we constructed a list of recommendations that organizations could implement to better assist urban aboriginal learners and further build organizational capacity. We put some of those recommendations into action with our six participating organizations. Activities were customized to individual organizations based on their programs and services. Throughout the project many valuable skills, techniques and methods for working with Aboriginal clients/participants were gained.
Following, are just a few simple tips that could benefit your own organization and the Aboriginal learners you serve:
- Don’t worry about trying to find Aboriginal experts; begin with your learners. Many of them carry important knowledge and have references on who to contact.
- Ask learners to share needs and interests, and make suggestions. Learners appreciate being involved in your organization’s development and enjoy feeling that their inputs and recommendations are being used.
- Activities that are helpful:
- Use plain language in program materials.
- Create welcoming environments for Aboriginal participants and their families.
- Use elders and incorporate Aboriginal cultural activities into regular programs and services.
- Provide Aboriginal role models and mentors, for learners and for your staff.
- Your organization will benefit from introducing or increasing Aboriginal staff, board members and volunteers.
- It’s okay to make mistakes and cultural blunders. Learn from them and continue to learn as an organization.
Stay tuned! FESA is planning educational sessions and more projects building on the Aboriginal Adult Learning project. Would you like to learn more about how to strengthen services and programs for Aboriginal Adult Learners or want to get involved?
If you are interested in learning more regarding the Aboriginal Adult Learning project, FESA will be presenting at the River Cree Resort in Edmonton, Alberta during the Literacy and Learning Symposium on October 23 2014. Alternately, for further information contact the Further Education Society at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo of Ningwakwe George presentation
Comments from Project Participants:
- “I am really impressed with the imagination that the various groups brought to their work.” Advisory Member
- “Our new Assessment provides more opportunity for an Aboriginal person to express their identity.” CSWCRC
- “Aboriginal learners cannot be lumped together. Neither ignoring culture nor trying the same ‘Aboriginal approach’ for all learners is effective in achieving positive learning outcomes.” CanLearn
- “Through the advisor from the project we connected with the Siksika people. Attendance at job fairs there resulted in 16 applicants, 3 of whom are already on board! We want to recruit AND retain talent. We’ll provide opportunities for growth.” HR Manager, WalMart
- “I can’t tell you in words how excited I get waiting for the healing circles [with the self named ‘Women Warriors’ group]. I can do some journaling now, and maybe I’ll be able to write letters.” Youville client