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Montessori in a Dene Kindergarten – Montessori in a Dene Grade One Classroom

Our Trip to the Rapids

Posted by mrsmelva on 15/05/2010

When I first moved here from British Columbia and my middle years students suggested we go to the rapids, I have to admit that I was a little disappointed. I was expecting rushing white water. Instead, I was shown this beautiful creek, meandering through fields and boreal forest and teaming with jackfish (northern pike) in the spring. The fish go upstream to spawn. Many are caught with a snare on the end of a stick and cooked over an open fire as a wonderful meal, but care is taken to make sure that plenty of fish still make it upstream to spawn and ensure a continuing supply of fish. These are the same fish that we were catching on the ice in winter. Our community school coordinator and our Dene language teacher arranged this outing for the students. It is close to the school, but too far to walk easily without taking up too much school time, so we went by bus. Some elders were hired to catch fish, build the fire and cook for the children.

heading to the creek to look for fish, but first we need some cautionary procedures so that no one falls in!

the elders had the fire going and food ready for the children after their nature walk

the beauty of clouds reflected in calm water

Look! there are fish over there!

fish swimming amongst the reflection of the trees

You need to have good eyes to see the fish and even better eye-hand coordination to actually catch one with a snare like this:

a wire snare on a stick

this fish was caught by a grade 6 student

In spring you often see older kids heading to the creek with a piece of wire, a lighter, a salt shaker and a potato in their pockets so that they can catch and cook their own supper. Families also gather for picnics plain and fancy but always featuring the delicious fresh fish.

On our walk the Dene language teacher focused mainly on the creek and the fish but also pointed out features of local trees and plants.

noting features of a tree along the way

children were warned not to grab this very thorny plant

The children were shown a fish and its body parts were pointed out, named and described in Dene.


looking into the fish's mouth

another view inside its mouth

After our walk we returned to the campfire to feast on fish, potatoes, hot chocolate, tea, bannock and jam.

potatoes and tea

The potatoes are cooked directly in the coals of the fire and they have a delicious smoky taste.

fried bannock with jam

a fish waiting to be cleaned and cooked

the insides of the fish were also shown to the children and explained in Dene

sharing with the seagulls

sharing with each other

We had a wonderful time with lots of learning. The next day in class I had the children draw and write about the experience. I have made a deal with our Dene language teacher when she plans these field trips to put me on the schedule before she posts it for others to sign up and to always put me in the same spot on the schedule so that I can do follow up in class. When she does these trips she cancels her regular schedule and everyone signs up for a double block so that there is enough time for a quality experience. Because our teacher prep time is when our students go to Dene class and gym, most teachers do not go on these field trips, but I find that being there with my students is really worthwhile. I take pictures and use them in discussion the next day before we do our follow up activity. Sometimes I put a thumbnail picture on each student’s writing paper. I also use pictures from these experiences to make matching cards and in the future I plan to make some three part cards in English. Following that I hope to collaborate with the Dene language teacher to make three part cards in Dene.


One Response to “Our Trip to the Rapids”

  1. Cynthia said

    Fabulous post and an excellent blog! I look forward to reading more about your class.

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