Partners in Place: Student Perspective

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By Danielle M, Social Problem Solving Through Design Thinking Elective Student

Connect Charter School started Partners in Place in 2017, when the grade sevens of that time buddied with the grade threes and fours of the Tsuut’ina elementary school. There we were able to learn more about their culture, and they were able to learn more about ours, as part of the Partners in Place program. We also got to help design and build a mural in Fort Calgary, this is an important symbol of our Partners in Place program, and also as a part of Truth and Reconciliation. Some of the other activities that we did were attending a powwow at Mount Royal University, and participating in a culture class where we got to learn about some of the Tsuut’ina language and cultural games. 

This year we have been continuing with our Partners in Place program primarily through the elective Social Problem Solving through Design Thinking. This elective gives students the opportunity to forge a stronger connection with our partners at the Tsuut’ina Junior/Senior High School while delving into issues surrounding Mental Health and Bullying in our schools and larger communities. Already this year we have done so much. Since we are working alongside the grade eight students at Tsuut’ina Junior/Senior High School, we spend the start of our year getting to know them better. We met them on Sept. 6, when our elective went to visit their school, we played games including a few where we got to learn part of the Tsuut’ina language. In the following month we went to their school or they came to ours often. We did many activities to get to know them and learn about their school and culture including a fire challenge, we also got to go and play an escape room with the Tsuut’ina students. 

As part of our Partners in Place program the grade 8 students got their own iPads, since at Connect, technology is a significant part of our learning, students from our elective designed an iPad challenge, and we played it as a group to get them acquainted with the iPads that they would be using for the rest of the year. 

Bullying and Mental Health has been a focus this year, recently we got the opportunity to go to Mount Royal University to hear a speaker about Mental Health and Wellness. We learned many things, including the importance of having time dedicated to our minds, and how stress and anxiety impacts students. As part of our elective we have been applying what we have learned to our school and community. This includes how stress and anxiety impacts students at Connect, and how we can help to lessen the negative effects it has. We also heard from the culture teacher at Tsuut’ina Junior/ Senior High School about the traditional approach to mental health and wellbeing. 

As per the name of our elective (Social Problem Solving through Design Thinking) we have also touched on design and engineering this year. In our first class we did a small challenge of designing and creating small chairs for fictional characters based off of what they required. We also did a small research project exploring the role of empathy in design at Mount Royal University.

Truth and Reconciliation is a big part of our Partners in Place program, because only by learning more about the First Nations cultures, beliefs and challenges that they face are we able to help move towards a better future.