The Heart Beat of Our School Family

Jun. 21, 2016

​This spring, elementary school professionals from the Calgary Board of Education had the opportunity to participate in a unique learning experience with the Aboriginal Education Team. Participants were led on a knowledge-sharing journey that began with them creating their own hand drum.

“From an Indigenous perspective, musical instruments play an important role in our communities,” says learning specialist and organizer, Claudette Gourdeau. “They are used to celebrate, heal, and connect with our ancestors, humanity and the natural world, bringing positive energy to all.  The drum represents the heartbeat of Mother Earth, and parallels our own pulse and beat; that which allows us to have life.”

Tsuu T’ina Elder and Knowledge Keeper, Hal Eagletail helping student with the making of a hand drum.


The first day of the workshop saw participants create their drums with guidance from Tsuu T’ina Wellness and Knowledge Keeper, Hal Eagletail. Hal shared traditional teachings, protocol, and care of the hand drum. 

Cree Métis Elder, Kerrie Moore signing and drumming for the class.


Cree Métis Elder, Kerrie Moore, also educated the group around the alignment of Western philosophy and practice with Indigenous teachings, particularly regarding hands-on learning, holistic healing and well-being.  Both Elders taught the group through the sharing of songs and stories over the emotional two-day journey.

On the second day of the workshop, participants were given their hand drums along with a special gifting of two songs.

“We were very pleased with how everyone came away with a greater understanding of Indigenous ways of knowing and doing,” says diversity and learning support advisor and co-organizer, Gloria Manitopyes. “We look forward to sharing the experience with many others in the future.”

“It was an authentic learning opportunity and one that we have been able to share with our respective school communities,” said learning leader, Lisa Schoeler. “It was very touching to hear how the sound of a drum beat, or a song, can help give a voice to a child who may be struggling. We all came away with a much deeper understanding of how our school is an extension of family, and we took away a renewed sense of responsibility to pass along knowledge that was shared with us and to incorporate the teachings into our school culture.”