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Kindergarten class paints rocks with orange hearts in Chilliwack for local elders

‘Compassion and empathy’ being shown by kids learning about residential schools
Painted rocks with orange hearts, and the Evans Kindergarten class learning about residential schools. Class members: Brielle Harasemow, Calissa Ratelle, Cohen Gadon, David Pilch, Huxley McDonald, Jaxson Webb, Leonardo Coelho, Melo Filho, Marrisa Hsiao, Oliver Laughlin, Rayna Palaniuk, Sophia Henderson, Wesley Carrat, Wilson Baker, Madyson Botting, and Weston Weatherby. (Laura Bridge photo)

A local Kindergarten teacher noticed a vein of compassion and empathy among her young charges after recent atrocities at Kamloops Residential School came to light.

Carefully taking on the topic of the residential school experience has been an educational opportunity for the littlest learners.

”We have had some amazing discussions, and I also have been amazed at the level of compassion and empathy that the children, aged five and six, have been showing,” said Laura Bridge, who teaches Kindergarten at Evans elementary school in Chilliwack.

“They don’t need to hear all the details but they are allowed to have an awareness of what happened.”

As a school community at Evans, they have been shedding light on Canada’s dark chapter of the residential schools in different ways in each classroom.

One of the 2015 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada focuses on education for reconciliation, calling for “age appropriate” curriculum to be mandatory for K-12 on residential schools, treaties and on the historical/contemporary contributions of Indigenous people.

Bridge said after some class discussions they painted rocks with orange hearts.

When they were finished, they took a walk to the nearby Sto:lo Elders Lodge and presented them to elders and staff at the lodge.

Her Kindergarten class wanted to do something to reach out to the community, and express their feelings about what they were learning, she said.

They painted one set of rocks with orange hearts to give to the local elders, but they also each had one hand-painted rock to go home with, as a keepsake because they made two sets of rocks.

“We talked about how their hearts felt hearing about the children who were removed from their families, and how those families and children must have felt being taken away, having their hair cut, or being forbidden to speak their languages.”

The rock painting and talks really brought it all to life for them, she said. She purposely let the kids guide the classroom discussions and has been encouraging parents to let the kids continue their educational explorations on this chapter of Canadian history at home.

“I have been really impressed with the discussions we have had, and I’m proud of the journey they now are on in letting our community know that every child matters.”

READ MORE: Shoes placed on stairs of local church

READ MORE: Canadians have ‘convenient’ ignorance about residential schools

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Kindergarten kids from Evans elementary school in Chilliwack painted rocks with orange hearts and delivered them to Sto:lo Elders Lodge recently after learning about residential schools. (Laura Bridge photo)

Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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