Alumni Spotlight

Claire Wade

Indigenous Sport and Recreation Certificate alumna and educator Claire Wade weaves Indigenous ways of knowing into school programming

Claire Wade (far right) has implemented the school-wide program Nature Connections at
Carseland Elementary School.

As an elementary teacher in a Southern Alberta rural community, Claire Wade is very aware of the impact respectful and inclusive education has on her students. With a diverse population attending the school Claire works at, including students from Siksika Nation, it was important for her to create authentic, relevant programming for all her students.

“As an educator, I wanted to provide programming that was not only culturally respectful, but which was informed by relevant research and created in the most respectful manner.”

When the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation and the Faculty of Native Studies launched its Indigenous Sport and Recreation Graduate Certificate in the Fall of 2017, Claire was elated to find a professional development opportunity that met her desired requirements. Designed to help working professionals gain a deeper understanding of the cultural context of Indigenous communities through sport and recreation, the Indigenous Sport and Recreation Graduate Certificate provides students an in-depth study on historical and contemporary issues in the areas of health and wellness, recreation management and physical activities.

 “After learning about the Indigenous Sport and Recreation Graduate Certificate and speaking to the program manager about the course content and learning outcomes, I knew that this certificate was exactly what I was looking for. It would help me create the authentic, relevant, evidence-supported programming that both my students and I were needing.”

One particular course—Managing Recreation, Sport, and Physical Activity Programs in Indigenous Communities—provided Claire with the extensive research she was seeking after to respectfully and effectively integrate Indigenous perspectives into the classroom. Working with a Siksika Nation cultural liaison and tying in the research project from her Indigenous Sport and Recreation Graduate Certificate courses, Claire has developed a park partnership called Ik Ka Nutsi (“to shine bright” in Blackfoot), that allows grade 5 and 6 students from her school to visit the Wyndham-Carseland Provincial Park on a weekly basis to participate in land-based learning. 

“Students will have the opportunity to learn about the importance of the land, plants and the Blackfoot words to describe them, and the values of stewardship and sustainability. They will also engage in added benefits such as physical fitness and building social relationships.”

The program, which will be directed by a Siksika Elder, will be open to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students in the 2019/2020 school year. 

Claire has also developed a school-wide program that takes on a “two-eyed approach” to wholistic health and wellness. The program, coined ‘Nature Connections’, creates a dynamic and multi-faceted learning environment that respectfully nurtures Indigenous ways of knowing and embeds comprehensive health, mindfulness, and social and emotional development for students school-wide.

“‘Nature Connections’ effectively weaves Indigenous ways of knowing as a foundational knowledge piece for the students and teachers. The instructional design of the program embraces Indigenous Knowledge Systems, applies self-regulation techniques, focuses on ecological and physical literacy, and encompasses rich literature, storytelling, hands-on learning and understanding the interconnection and culture of belonging.”

For Claire, Nature Connections, which was piloted in the 2018/2019 school year, has been beneficial for both students and the teachers, who have the opportunity to meet on a regular basis and create a bond through authentic engagement.

“Being outdoors—through all seasons—and creating a safe and respectful nest for learning has been incredible for us all. I see a lot of confidence and pride in our students. Nature nurtures the sense of wonder that we all have and this program has created such an incredible connection with the students.”

Claire credits much of her efforts in weaving effective and respectful Indigenous ways of knowing and learning into her school programming and the programs successes to the Indigenous Sport and Recreation Graduate Certificate.

“The Indigenous Sport and Recreation Graduate Certificate has truly made me a better person and teacher. Everything I have learned in this program, I have brought back to my teaching career. It gave me the tools to better communicate with the communities that I work with.”

“As humans, it is important to continually grow and challenge yourself. The Indigenous Sport and Recreation Graduate Certificate did both. I am forever changed for the better.” 

To learn more about the Indigenous Sport and Recreation Graduation Certificate, visit uab.ca/KSRCert. Application deadline for 2019 is Friday, August 2nd.