For Aboriginal Storytelling month last February, four students from Bert Fox Community High School were invited to the Estevan Comprehensive School to present the Blanket Exercise which tells the history of Canada through the voices of indigenous peoples. The blankets represent the land and participants play the role of sovereign indigenous peoples. The facilitators play the role of Europeans who first come to the land as friends, but as the power begins to shift, and Treaties are broken, assimilation and colonization become a reality. http://kairosblanketexercise.org/about
Tim Lee and James Jones, teachers at the Estevan Comp, assigned reflection questions. This is the last of five questions asked.
Analyze the overall effectiveness of the presentation.
- The presentation is both visual and verbal. That's twice the effectiveness.
- The overall effectiveness of this presentation was that it makes you stop and think about how we never hear about what happened to the Aboriginal peoples. Kind of like it's Canada's dirty little secret.
- The presentation was an eye opening experience.
- To me this presentation was very effective. Many people are visual learners and learn by being involved. This is what made the presentation so effective. After being involved I have become more aware of how poorly First Nations were treated. With the Blanket Exercise it made it clear that they were pushed off the land and sent to Residential Schools. By standing on the blankets and having them become smaller as the years went on shows the little room they had.
- They could have read slower.
- I think the presentation had a large affect on those who listened and cared. However, I think quite a few didn't care and weren't interested at all, and in those people the presentation fell on deaf ears. In everyone else, myself included, it educated us about the feelings of the First Nations. No other devices used to teach at schools can make you feel what it would even slightly have been like, and the blanket exercise did. That feeling of understanding makes you care more about it, and when you care about a topic, it makes you want to learn about it, to do something about it. And that's what I think this presentation made people do, care.
- To me the overall effectiveness was great because everyone was mature, everyone was in a serious stage, listening to what actually happened in our world, maybe not our lifetime, but our grandparents and even parents. Racism was a big thing to the Aboriginal peoples and it is still going on today. It was hard to hear some of their stories, but in general, they got through it and made us more aware of what was going on around us. They were very educated about the topic. They genuinely cared about the topic and showed that they wanted to get their story out to us. They were passionate and well educated about their topic. They got their point across very well by using hands on activities and I was more into it because it was hands on and not reading from a textbook.
- Very well thought out. They were well prepared, rehearsed a lot. You could tell because they had lots of writing on their scripts. It would be effective for grade eights because it was powerful. They were not scared to yell and get the point across. I give them credit for doing the presentation in front of three classes of kids their same age.
- Overall it was about a 4 out of 5. It does teach you a thing or two, but in my opinion, all Native Study activities are focused around the same thing. Though this was by far the most interesting and interactive presentation I have attended. there's lots of people that need to be included in order to learn, and I feel that this is a very good teaching method, especially at a high school level. It's also effective because those who were presenting were of the same age group which was nice for a change. Much better than a corpse talking for a droning hour.
- I felt that the presentation was very effective as it caused me to critically think about what I could do to inspire action. It made me also realize how ignorant I can be about cultures other than my own. I also felt that the fact that the presenters were youth like us made the presentation more effective. It made it easier to understand as well as easier to relate to. I also felt that since the presenters were our age, I found that it was easier to pay attention to them as I understand how hard it is to stand in front of a group of peers and present. Lastly, I found that the use of visuals in the presentation made the information easier to understand.
- Overall, the presentation was amazing in the sense of effectiveness! The fact that they had us participate not only as standing on the blankets being "natives" but they also had us read scrolls about the history of it all. They engaged us very well and really helped us visualize how traumatic and REAL the situations were. I took in a lot of knowledge that I hadn't known prior to the presentation and the fact that they were all our age made it even better. I wouldn't change a thing about the presentation.
- If the girls made us sit on the bleachers and listen to them talk, then I can assure you that most people would be on their phones. The girls seemed to be very passionate on the subject because as they said, it's our shared history. I can tell that our presenters really did enjoy doing this.
- I think the overall effectiveness of the presentation was moderate. For people, such as myself, who are uncomfortable in tight groups of people, I found myself unable to maintain focus as I was too busy trying not to bump into someone. I believe that getting the audience involved is a great idea, however, many people are unwilling to speak in front of their peers and because of this, I was unable to hear what people were reading off of the scrolls. Other than those two points, the presentation was effective. I understood what information I received.
- The overall effectiveness was very powerful in different ways like when they gave me the baby, and I held it for a while, then they took it away. I felt a bit sad. If that were my real baby, and it got taken away, I'd be heartbroken. Everything that they read actually happened (not to them necessarily) but to their people. We learned that just because it didn't happen to us doesn't mean it didn't effect us in a way. Considering it was presented by our peers made it more understandable from their perspectives.
- I think the Blanket Exercise was very effective because it went over a lot of information in a short amount of time. They used information that was easy to understand. They had everyone participate and play a role. The only thing I didn't like was how fast they spoke and I couldn't really understand them sometimes.
- The presentation was extremely effective. One of the major ways it was effective was it was done by grade elven and twelve students. It wasn't just someone rambling on and on. We were asked to participate, too. When they began to make the blankets smaller you started to really see and feel first hand what they went through. It almost made you realize your "life was at risk" to be kicked off the blankets and "die". After the presentation the leaders were able to speak and the girl in my group was able to share some of her own experiences as part Aboriginal. That really shows that you can't judge a book by it's cover. Overall the presentation was just awesome to experience.
- This presentation is effective because you don't sit for an hour and listen to facts. You are moving around and acting out the things that actually happened. You see what happened and you get a very clear picture of it because they put you in their shoes and move you around and take land and then send you away and take babies then all of a sudden people die off. As well they were very passionate about the topic. They made you play along and play a part in it to help you learn and understand. They were always moving around and walking around the circle.
- The presentation was a lot different than I expected it. I expected us to just sit on the blanket and listen to stories told by grade 12's. Instead, we were included in the presentation and got to read the Treaties and the laws that the European's implemented on the Aboriginals. We were given papers, and when you had a certain colour paper you could be killed by smallpox or other disease brought by Europeans. Many were killed and their children (baby dolls) were taken to Residential School. I believe that grade 12 students presented this to us gave it more of a personalized feeling. You were yelled at by one of the girls pretending to be a European and it actually scared you a little. It was nice having it put into a real situation, not just having it read to you. This way you got to partake in the storytelling and it was really enjoyable. It was serious and yet intriguing, waiting to find out who dies next. Personally, I don't think it would be as effective on elementary (6, 7, 8) grades because they aren't mature enough to understand the seriousness of the situation. The language is harder and it could need to be adapted to their form of understanding. I believe that the presentation was very effective and influenced a great deal of the group.
- This was a very effective presentation. It gave us a chance to participate and a small chance to see what it was like. It was also good to see that it was people our age presenting, proving that we can make a difference and pass this information along and make the future better.
- I believe that the presentation was effective because it got us involved and made us see how poorly First Nations were treated. It opened my eyes to see how the people were treated and made me think of ways to fix our relationships.
- The effectiveness of the presentation is actually quite a bit. It's not making me go out and donating money to First Nations people, but it really puts our past into perspective. Although it's not nearly as intense as it would have been for when it happened, but it is at a nice scale where people can take it in and realize what happened. The Blanket Exercise is something I will never forget and when people ask about what happened in our nation's past it will now be easier to explain and easier for them to learn.
There were a few sheets with comments like, "We could have learned more in class. It was a normal presentation to me. Honestly, I learned nothing. None of it was emotional to me. This did not inspire me. Some of it may inspire and others it may not. It didn't really have any effect on me."
But as you can see from the responses above, it was overwhelmingly well-received and an optimum educational experience for all involved.
Note. Excerpts from the ECS reflections on the Blanket Exercise can be found on Treaty Walks question by question on the following dates:
1. What was your general impression or thoughts about the Blanket Exercise? Did you enjoy participating? August 14th, 2016
2. What did you learn from Friday's presentation? August 23rd, 2016
3. What was the most emotional moment for you? Why was it emotional? Consider the speaker's values, perspective, biases and tone. August 29th, 2016
4. The Blanket Exercise is designed to inspire action. How could an event like this inspire people? What could we do? September 2nd, 2016
5. Analyze the overall effectiveness of the presentation. September 9th, 2016