Ever wanted to help end the divide between culture or other barriers between on-reserve and off-reserve children? Maybe even offer a platform for both to educate one another?
You can help do just that with the ‘Pass the Feather to Me,’ non-profit organization that has an active and effective initiative that is hoped to enter classrooms on Six Nations. This initiative is the Classroom Art Exchange Program, which Executive Director of the Project Dawn Setford says is “spectacular in helping to combat prejudice.”
“The point of the program really is for connecting kids so there’s not quite so much of a barrier and you know, trying to transcend those logistic and economic barriers and the cultural diversity looking at the future and hopefully shaping these kids to have less prejudice being it that they have a First Nations pen-pal and a First Nations friend,” she said.
Setford explained that the program will cost classrooms or school nothing, beyond their participation.
“We are a non-profit organization, a first nations non-profit, and we have a classroom art and knowledge exchange program where on-reserve classrooms are matched with public school classrooms and they do pen-palling,” she said, including that the Ontario Arts Council helps to fund the program.
“It’s all one program so what we do is we have registration or a classroom registers from a First Nations on-reserve school, and then they’re matched with their grade level in a public school classroom. So, a more urban classroom, you know, a multi-cultured classroom,” she said.
“The First Nations kids will write an introductory letter and do an art collaboration based on a First Nations teaching,” she said. “Essentially what they’re doing is teaching their peers — who are non-indigenous — a little bit about their culture. So, they mail that over to their peers of the same grade level and those kids unpack it and they do an art collaboration based on what they’ve learned and they send it back to the First Nations class,” she said.
But, although the pen-pals might not be able to meet one another, there is an opportunity to do so.
“At the end of the year we’ll have an art exhibition and the kids that are a little more local can certainly go to see their artwork on display at the end of the year,” she said, with hopes that in the future it will be possible to fund the pen-pals meeting one another.
Currently the program has only a few spots left and it is hoped that of the many on-reserve elementary schools within Six Nations, the call for registries will be answered.
“Right now we have about five openings left for on-reserve classrooms,” she said. “It’s an entirely free program and each classroom gets an art workshop with a First Nations artist and if they’re in an under-funded classroom, they’ll also have access to art supplies,” she said.
“We ran a pilot program and we had six classrooms last year, so this year we have room for 10 first nations classrooms and 10 non-indigenous classrooms so we have a 20 classroom maximum in total,” she said.
If you would like more information or would like to register for the program, simply check out http://passthefeathertome.org/. The website also offers examples of art from previous years.