Feb. 4, 2021
How the Blackfoot Creation story inspires learning through movement
Every day we learn something new about the way that children learn, but one thing has become abundantly clear. Physical literacy is an integral part of their development. So how does one integrate movement into lessons? Creatively.
It began as all great projects start: at a Tim Hortons. Just off the highway near Nanton, Alta., Leah Yardley, the Calgary co-ordinator of the Be Fit For Life Centre in the Faculty of Kinesiology at the University of Calgary, met with Sandra Lamouche, photo above, a contemporary Indigenous dancer and current master's student at Trent University.
“We are committed to expanding physical activity resources and support available that would be both meaningful for the Indigenous community but also a way to integrate Indigenous culture and awareness with the non-Indigenous community,” says Yardley. She and Lamouche are expanding accessibility to Indigenous education through movement.
The most recent work is their Blackfoot Creation story. This narrative combines creative storytelling and physical movement to help retention among younger students. The narrative adds an imaginative mental focus that helps them connect to the stories and lessons they are being taught.
“The Blackfoot Creation story is a moving story in which readers and listeners are prompted with movement cues that help them develop physical literacy,” says Yardley.
Be Fit for Life will be distributing these resources to schools and recreation centres this fall, and looking to showcase this within the Faculty of Kinesiology. The book has also been used across Alberta in a variety of ways, including most recently as a Story Walk where the book was deconstructed into pages spaced along a trail to support outdoor movement and literacy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Accessibility to Indigenous education
Yardley has been committed to expanding accessibility to Indigenous education for years, sourcing educational grants to support an array of projects. While working with illustrator Adam Blacksmith, Yardley was awarded a grant to help create the storybook As Big as the Sky, as Tall as the Trees, which combines imagination and movement through the exploration of the land and the heart of Alberta.
“Again, the story was designed to be listened to while doing winter walks, encouraging the listeners to pause and do each movement in co-ordination with the cues,” says Yardley.
Inspiration for more books
This storybook was what inspired Lamouche to reach out to Yardley for future collaborations. Lamouche credits a lot of her creativity from her mentor in Santa Fe, New Mexico, who focused heavily on land-based dance and taking inspiration from the elders that she has worked with while finishing her master’s degree in Native and Indigenous studies.
For the Blackfoot Creation storybook, their goal was to create resources for teaching professionals that helped connect language and culture with physical movement. They wanted to help get the story out into the community and into places such as recreation facilities; these resources help build further connections with culture, nature and movement.
“This holistic approach to movement and wellness gives children an opportunity to immerse themselves in cultural learning; how are you relating yourself to these stories through a real-life experience?” says Lamouche.
Games for children
After the Blackfoot Creation storybook was released, Yardley was the recipient of another Alberta grant alongside Ever Active Schools. They were able to create Animoves, a series of games and activities that help children learn about the animals in Alberta. The games are translated into multiple Indigenous languages, including Cree, Stoney Nakoda and Blackfoot. These resources were designed as large flash cards that could be used for early-age language lessons.
Be Fit for Life is an Alberta organization whose mission is to get all Albertans to develop physical literacy skills and to help encourage movement for their entire lifespan.
The Faculty of Kinesiology is the No. 1 ranked sport science school in North America and No. 11 globally.