Orange Shirt Day is once again returning to Grande Prairie, a movement dedicated to the recognition and reconciliation of the events surrounding residential schools. Schools and businesses in the region and across Canada will don orange apparel and iconography to show support and solidarity for the tragedy.
The Grande Prairie Public School Division has participated in the movement since its inception in 2013. According to Deputy Superintendent James Robinson the school district is also a member of the Grande Prairie and Area Circle of Aboriginal Services.
Robinson says this year will look a little different for participating students and schools due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns.
“Traditionally we would have an opportunity for whole school assemblies to share in learning together, but we’ve had to change that because we can’t have large group assemblies [as] we have in the past,” he says.
Robinson explains that the day is a good opportunity to better understand what students are taught about residential schools in class.
“We’ve developed a series of readings lists of books that people can share and different fixed resources that helps students throughout the grade levels whether they’re in elementary school or middle school or high school [to] really develop an understanding of residential schools and the ongoing impact today.”
Robinson adds wearing an orange shirt on September 30th has become something of a symbolic gesture that demonstrates a commitment to reconciliation. He says students nowadays tend to be more open to talking about and understanding what happened during the time period.
“I think one of the positive benefits has been students, no matter what grade they’re in, will have some sort of conversation about the impact of residential schools. Whether they’re in grade two or grade eight it’s creating opportunities to have those discussions.”
“Kids have an understanding different than what a lot of adults would have growing up,’ he notes. “Students will understand more about our shared history and the impacts of residential schools in a way that will provide meaningful change.”
Robinson says he believes children are adeptly able to understand some of the complex issues around residential schools and acknowledges their ability to have those conversations themselves with their peers and their teachers and even with their families. Conversations around residential schools, he assures, are geared to be developmentally appropriate to student’s age levels to encourage more positive learning and understanding.