Jennifer Moroz of School District No. 57 Learning Innovations displays a timeline of the Metis in Canada. Moroz is using the timeline as a guide for a film project that involves students in Grades 4 through 9.

Film project provides unique learning opportunity

Students at Spruceland Traditional Elementary School participate in a traditional Metis dance, to the fiddle music of Raynie Gervais.


Telling the story of the Metis through film is at the centre of a wide-ranging project underway in School District No. 57.

The initiative, called Exploring Historical Perspectives Through Place-Based Theatre: The Story of the Metis in Canada Film Project, involves students from Foothills Elementary, Spruceland Traditional Elementary, Ecole College Heights Elementary, Heritage Elementary and D.P. Todd Secondary schools. Filming began with elementary students last week. The youngest students are in Grade 4 and the oldest will be in Grade 9.

The concept is to have each grade level – specific to its curriculum in areas such as Social Studies, Arts Education and Applied Design, Skills and Technology – give portrayals from part of the Metis timeline. Last week’s filming was done outdoors at Foothills, Spruceland and Ecole College Heights. Outdoor locations will continue to provide the backdrop as the project moves forward.

 The Story of the Metis in Canada Film Project represents a unique learning opportunity for students and, once finished, will be available for use in present and future classrooms.
  

“Because it’s tied to the curriculum, teachers can use the film as a teaching and assessment tool for really big themes that we’re looking at,” said Jennifer Moroz, who came up with the idea at the beginning of the school year and is coordinating its implementation.

“As an example, Grade 9 Social Studies, the time period covered in the curriculum is 1750 to 1919. So that part of our film, these students are going to be creating a storyboard and then filming outside something to do with the Voyageurs, the canot du nord, the North West Company – anything in that time period will be the scene that they’re going to create. We’ll film scenes all over the area and then piece it together.”

Moroz is a member of the School District No. 57 Learning Innovations team. Her mandate is cross-curricular learning in truth and reconciliation. This current concept is rooted in a project she did earlier in her career when her Grade 5-6 class at Houston’s Silverthorne Elementary did a stage play about the Metis in Canada.

“Taking it off the stage and putting it outside, I think if students learn it through doing, they’re going to remember it for a very long time,” she said. “And if we place importance – which we do – on truth and reconciliation, then I think what we need to do is to really dig into the past to understand our current political landscape. And we’re embracing historical perspectives – we’re actually physically embracing them by becoming them.”

The project has met with support from across School District No. 57 and the broader community.

From within the school district, D.P. Todd’s Glen Thielmann – recipient of the 2017 Governor General's History Award for Excellence in Teaching – is the historical advisor and Vanessa Elton, First People’s Principles of Learning, is the location consultant. Angela Sanderson, Culture and Indigenous foci through the Aboriginal Education Department, is offering classroom lessons in the history of Metis culture. Julie Fisher, Arts Education District Teacher, is supporting the project with age-appropriate folk songs and assessment. Meanwhile, the music teachers in the five schools – Susan Klein, Elizabeth Morris, Byron Kurkiniemi, Sharon MacDermott and Chris Goodwin – will be teaching time-period songs including: Riel’s Farewell, Un Canadien Errant, My Paddle, Land of the Silver Birch and Alouette. The D.P Todd band will perform the film’s soundtrack.

From outside the school district, Metis dance instructor Beverly Lambert worked with Foothills, Spruceland and Ecole College Heights students last week and assisted them during the filming, which was done by community member Ben Gibson of Media Forge Studios. Students danced to live fiddle music performed by Raynie Gervais, accomplished musician and the North Central Regional Director of the Metis Nation of British Columbia.

Leona Neilsen, an educator for the Cree Strong Start programs with the Prince George Native Friendship Centre, is offering set design consulting.
 

Local Metis elders have given their blessing to the project.

Some filming may be done in the winter months but the majority of the scenes, for reasons of preparation and timing, will be recorded in the spring of 2020.

“If we’re talking the Voyageurs and rivers, then we’re going to need spring weather conditions,” Moroz said.
 

If everything goes according to plan, Moroz envisions not just classroom showings but an invitation to educators, parents and caregivers in the school community to view the film.

Given the scope of the project, Moroz is still seeking some helping hands. She would gladly accept assistance in the designing of historical attire for the students. She is also hoping to find some authentic – or authentic-looking – props students could use when they are in front of the camera.

Anyone who is able to support The Story of the Metis in Canada Film Project is welcome to email Moroz at jmoroz@sd57.bc.ca or call her at 250-640-2836.