All term, the Grade 2 classes have been studying the Arctic and the traditional ways of life of the Inuit people. From lessons on traditional clothing to what it’s like living above the treeline, the students have immersed themselves in learning about the Arctic and the people who live there.
“In Grade 2 social studies, we study diverse characteristics of communities and cultures in Canada and around the world. So we’ve asked the big question: What makes the Inuit different from a community like ours? What would be the differences in how they live, how they express their feelings, the land, the relationship between the people and the environment,” says Grade 2 teacher Ms. Pam Yorath.
The cross-curricular study expanded far beyond just learning about the Inuit in social studies class. Arctic- and Inuit-themed lessons were integrated into art and music class, too, and students had the opportunity to learn in a variety of ways.
“We talked about hunting and fishing and how the Inuit use every part of the animal; it’s not the sport. I’ve shown them real footage showing hunting in 1949, and then showing them a video footage of today, and then I got them to compare and contrast,” Pam says. “We’ve used books as ways to spark conversations and lessons; sometime’s it’s a question or a small group discussion. ‘How do you think the clothing of the Inuit shows us what their lifestyle is? Or what the natural world around them is like? We taught all the children how to write their names in Inuktitut syllabics, we’ve had items brought in: harpoons, things made of seal skin and bone.”
Each student also spearheaded their own Arctic animal project. “They had to find out about their habitat, distinct features, and then they learn, ‘Why does the snowshoe hare have large feet? What benefit does that add for the animal living in the Arctic?’ They touched on the environment and camouflage and migration.”
On Thursday, the two classes came together in a celebration of learning by playing traditional Inuit games and Arctic-themed games and activities. Among the fun events was a modified version of the blanket toss (using towels and stuffed animals), dog sled pulls (using towels and students) and a snowy owl and lemmings chase game. Students also worked together to build marshmallow igloos.
“Over the course of these studies, we’ve wanted the students to learn that we actually have a lot in common with the Inuit. We focus in social studies on differences, but really, people have more in common than they do differences. Children in the arctic still play – they will play differently than you because they have access to different materials and different toys – but they like to play,” Pam says. “The other thing I really want them to understand that in different parts of the world, food supply is different, meaning the way in which we live is different. The housing, the natural world surrounding, but the core of people, I think, is the same. We like to play, we like to laugh, we like to eat, we love our family and friends, and express our thoughts and feelings through art: dance, singing, drama and games.”
Student Reflections on Learning and the Arctic Games
“My favourite activity was the marshmallow igloo because we got to eat some marshmallows! What I thought was interesting was how big the blocks for the Igloos were. I think they are one metre long. I thought they were only one foot long.” – Hasmitha
“I thought the Inuit life was always easy, but when I learned about it, it was hard because of the polar bears, and animals, and they didn’t have ski-doos or any of the stuff we have.” – Georgia
“The Inuit eat lots of different animals, like raw narwhal! They also eat seal, caribou and use caribou bones to build their tents. I liked playing the dress-up game because we had to put on all these winter clothes including shoe boxes for snowshoes on our feet.” – Mya
“My favourite activity was leg wrestling. I loved that! You wrap your leg around your partner while you are lying down and you try to pull them over. I learned that an arctic fox could smell a seal a mile away!” – Luke
“I learned that in the summer, in the old way of life, the Inuit are in tents and in winter they are in Igloos. Now they live in small houses, and on hunting trips they stay in Igloos for the night. In the Inuit Games, the games that I loved was the polar bear and the seal game and the lemming and the snowy owl game, because you needed to move around and there were places for you to be safe.” – Parker
“In the new way of life, Inuit can wear baseball caps, but in the old days they couldn’t wear them because they didn’t have the right materials. They used sealskin and caribou skin to make their clothes. I also learned walrus tusks can be as long as an arm!” – Quinn
“I was surprised at how cold it is in the Arctic. The Inuit have to wear different clothes such as a parka made from animal skins. Now the Inuit wear jackets more like us but they are thicker. My study of the caribou is very interesting and I learned that they live up to 15 years.” – Molly
“In our unit I learned that the Arctic tern migrates from the North Pole to the South Pole in one year. I found out that long ago the Inuit used weapons made out of bone and tusks. In our Inuit Celebration my favourite activity was the team building of the igloo out of marshmallows!” – Emily
“My favourite activity in the Inuit Celebration was the marshmallow igloo building team challenge. It was fun working as a group. I’ve learned that both male and female caribou have antlers! Also, I have learned that caribou and seal are very, very important to the Inuit!” – Sammie
“My favourite activity in the Inuit Celebration was the Snowy Owl and Lemming Game because we got to move and jump into hula hoops. It was great fun! I have learned in our unit that when the Inuit hunt they use harpoons to kill the seals. They dress in lots of layers and use caribou and seal. I have studied Narwhals and learned that they can grow to about 6 meters.” – Matthew
(photos by Gordon Chan and Kyle Slavin)