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Grade 4 Langley students showing love for Indigenous kids across Canada

Dorothy Peacock kids send postcards to prime minister, as part of Have a Heart Day
Weeks of learning and sharing facts and feelings about inequality for the country’s Indigenous was at the heart of an educational initiative that started at Shortreed Elementary and recently spread to Dorothy Peacock Elementary with Grade 4 teacher Tanya Fenech and her students. (Langley School District/Special to Langley Advance Times)

Grade 4 students at Dorothy Peacock Elementary used Valentine’s Day to show a little love for Indigenous students in Canada, while teaching their schoolmates about inequality that exists in parts of the country.

The initiative – which includes weeks of learning, as well as the creation of two bulletin boards in the school – is part of Have a Heart Day, which is a youth-led reconciliation movement, observed every Feb. 14, that brings together Canadians to help ensure First Nations children have the opportunity to grow up safely at home, get a good education, be healthy, and be proud of who they are.

“It’s empowerment. It’s giving them the opportunity to realize that they have a voice, and their voice matters,” said Grade 4 teacher Tanya Fenech, who first learned about Have a Heart Day while working at Shortreed Elementary before bringing it to Dorothy Peacock last September.

Have a Heart Day was brought to Shortreed by teacher Jessica Bedard. This year, Shortreed challenged all Grade 5 classes in the district to be involved in Have a Heart Day by sending a letter to each school.

In preparation for Have a Heart Day, students at Dorothy Peacock learned about Indigenous history, and about certain initiatives that aim to improve equality in Canada for young First Nations students.

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“We did a couple weeks of learning on this, at various levels. So, first we learned about equality and equal rights,” said Grade 4 teacher Megan Enns.

“And then we kind of stepped it up and learned about Shannen’s Dream, which is about a young student from Attawapiskat First Nation (in Ontario), who advocated for her own school, and now there’s a movement, and then we learned about Have a Heart Day, specifically.”

The students’ message went beyond the walls of their school, too.

Students in both classes were given the opportunity to write postcards to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, each with a personal message, “to explain why these issues are important, what he can do, what they thought about it, and essentially advocate for people that weren’t getting fair treatment and a fair education,” Enns said.

Copies of some of the postcards, along with other drawings, were used to create two bulletin boards in the school.

Each class designed its own board with a large heart full of puzzle pieces as the centrepiece. Each puzzle piece includes something students want to see change or improved, with notes reading “More School Supplies” and “Clean Water” among them.

“I just want my students to have an understanding of what happens in this world that I didn’t have as a child,” Fenech said.

“I didn’t learn these things growing up in school, so I’ve kind of taken it on, as my job as an educator, to teach the truth, and teach what’s happening in our country and in the world.”

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To learn more about Have a Heart Day which was started by the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society, click here.