Grade 8 and 9 students from Queen Elizabeth High School’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) Program had a unique opportunity in October to visit the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Twelve students, each accompanied by a parent, were the beneficiary of a grant from the Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights which allowed them (and Learning Leader Michelle Dow, teacher Matine Sedaghat, along with Principal, Lori Cooper) to fly and stay in Winnipeg for four days to participate in some very unique learning experiences through the museum.
Teacher Michelle Dow said “What an amazing opportunity for our students! The biggest take away for me was our students’ recognition of the many injustices faced by so many different groups of people. It is often difficult for students to see beyond their own personal bubbles. The museum provided an occasion for students to step outside, challenge their beliefs and build on relationships.”
The students explored pivotal moments, people, and changes in Canada’s human rights history to modern day that bring to light the democratic ideals, rights, freedoms and responsibilities of Canadians, with a special emphasis on First People’s and Métis Rights in a Changing Canada and the Residential School Experience.
The trip culminated with a special highlight: the Mikinak Keya Spirit tour. Mikinak-Keya is a unique cultural experience exploring rights and responsibilities from a First Nations perspective. The students spent approximately 90 minutes with an Indigenous program interpreter, exploring how the symbolism in the building’s architecture relates to the Seven Sacred Laws and the teachings of Grandmother Turtle. This tour had special meaning for the students as it was created in partnership with a group of seven Elders representing Anishinaabe, Cree and Dakota nations.
As one parent stated, this opportunity was “a trip of a lifetime I would have never had a chance to experience on my own”. Principal Lori Cooper noted that this trip was unlike any field trip she has experienced as an educator, “the idea of these students participating in this unique learning experience alongside their parents allowed for a depth of understanding I have never seen on a field trip. Many connections were highlighted from this experience: not only curriculum connections, but also parent to student closeness and parent to parent networks”. The busy four days allowed students and their parents to reflect on and learn about several perspectives on Human Rights, including their own unique perspective as a DHH student.
Sami, one of the students on the trip, after touring the Nelson Mandela exhibit shared, “I just want to remind everybody that everyone needs to be treated equally and with respect. We all must work really hard to make sure nothing that discriminates any human rights ever happens again. Racism and discrimination should be banned in all the countries in the world. Please take my message and stand up for anyone who’s rights are being discriminated against”.
For these students, this trip is just the start. The teachers have plans to build on the knowledge students learned about human rights, designing and creating rich, authentic tasks for their students throughout the remainder of the year.