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Celebrating Inquiry: Fall 2015 v.2 no.1

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Creating Smudge Boxes in CTF Class...William Lowry

How can we bring meaningful FNMI content into CTF/CTS classes, given they are not generally known for having a cultural/societal focus?


I was trying to think of a way to do my PIP around the shop program when the FNMI director at St Francis (Billy Woitte) asked if she could stain some tipi poles in the shop. While she was there she told me about wanting to have every school in the district have smudge boxes (used in first nations religious ceremonies). This comment got me thinking about bringing the FNMI content into the shop program. Together we set up a project for the students to build the smudge boxes, learn about what they are used for, and appreciate their importance to the Blackfoot culture.


I drafted and designed blueprints for the students to use, and they prepared and built the smudge boxes from my plans. I continuously consulted with Billy Woitte on designs and also on bringing in Blackfoot elders to talk about the smudge boxes. The project progressed rather nicely, with few setbacks. Students had varying skill levels in wood-shop, so a few boxes had to be repaired and modified by me, but all in all it went very smoothly.


I found that bringing FNMI content into the shop is easier then you think. The students also found it to be really interesting and especially enjoyed it when the elders came to visit. I found it nice to be able to build something like this and still meet the objectives of the shop class: I was working on types of joints and fasteners, and through building the smudge boxes the students could still practice and show me their understanding of the different types of joints.

Will recently completed his PS III internship at St Francis Jr High school, teaching grade 8 math and grades 7,8 and 9 wood shop. He is a journeyman carpenter and has worked in the trades for almost 20 years, so teaching wood-shop has been a real joy for him. Part of his goal for this Internship was to make wood shop a little more meaningful for today's learners.