A Year of Wednesdays

It’s been a year of growing this idea and a process of constantly coming undone. What a privilege to come to this place of unlearning. Of coming to know how little I know. I began this post weeks away from the end of the school year and am now putting the finishing touches on it weeks into launching into a new year.

I’ll try to focus my thoughts on Wild Wednesday and its evolution alone even though my thoughts keep trying to run away on me.

Wild Wednesdays was an evolution of the story work we began last year. This year, I had the opportunity to undertake a learning on the land series as a professional, which, in our school grew into “Wild Wednesday and Fresh Air Tuesday (it was going to be Fresh Air Friday but the schedule didn’t work…)” Our staff undertook story work with Saa’kokoto and Jeff Stockton and explored ways in which oral language supports developing literacy.

The project was to get outside for meaningful learning experiences as a regular part of our work. Not in spite of the weather. But together with the weather.

“Nature is alive and talking to us. This is not a metaphor.”

This powerful statement drove so much of our work outside.

“Really?!” People asked. “You go outside when it’s cold?”

“Yes,” I answer. “Even when it’s cold. Maybe especially when it’s cold.” I am not an outdoor die-hard… I am young in learning to learn outside work. But I have come to realize that I especially love moments outside where nature allows us to really feel nature. We always took care that students were adequately dressed for the weather: A regular schedule helped. Sticking to the promise of Wild Wednesdays helped. Kids always knew we were headed out… no matter the weather.

I laughed with my team a lot this year because every time we planned to take students walking to the park (a 20-25 minute walk from the school) it snowed. Like… out-of-season, ridiculous, heavy snowed… but we adventured outside with students anyway.

So… What did we do outside?

We learned to follow the emergent curriculum and allowed students to develop questions from their observations. As teachers, too, we watched students watching and questioned our teaching practices. We watched students become more engaged by being outside and watched students who might find engaging inside the traditional classroom engage in the work while outside. We found that we didn’t need to be experts of all the things… a deep knowledge of our curriculums allowed us to follow student curiosity.

We sat in circle and told stories in places where they live. Stories about rose hips while sitting next to rose hips.

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Stories about Raven and the north wind where the wind ruffled our hair.

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In addition to taking students outside and undertaking story work, we as teachers had the opportunity to engage in learning on the land and to taking up conversations about pedagogy that lead to beautiful questions.

At the end of the year we celebrated “moving camp” where students had the opportunity to engage in teachings with Saa’kokoto and to sit again with Jeff Stockton, our storytelling artist in residence. Jeff asked, “What’s one thing you were most excited about this year?” The kids answered, “Wild Wednesdays” and “definitely my reading.”

My answer: watching students develop as storytellers and watching them come to know the beings in this place and how their growth as storytellers had supported their growth in reading and writing.

One of my families relayed a story at the end of the year about retelling the story of Thunder. How just as they they finished retelling the story thunder had rolled before a spring storm and how perfectly magical it was to connect story to place. How confident that child was in the story.

I’m not sure I have entirely answered my own question for inquiry: How might oral storytelling support raising student literacy? How do you know?

But… I know that learners and teachers connected to the work and developed an affinity for the stories and the spaces in which they live. I listened to learners affectionately call, “Thunder!” one morning as we moved furniture to make space to circle and one of the kids bumped a table, causing it to scrape the floor.

Stories live in places and with people. Wild Wednesdays provided the opportunity to see that grow in our community.

Always the question: How do you know your work has an impact? Documenting the impact of the work is an ever evolving project. I guess for me the answer came anecdotally two weeks ago… In conversation with Saa’kokoto, he relayed how moved he had been to have a student from my community of learners greet him in Blackfoot at Writing on Stone park over the summer.

I know these learners carry the teachings in their hearts and carry them forward into their families and their communities. 

I expected to write this post as a period at the end of a long paragraph… instead it turned out that paragraph is only the end of the introduction. The body of the work is yet to come…

I am grateful for the opportunity to add my effort to the beautiful work already being done and am excited to see what comes next.