Canadian preschool wins $1M for thoughtfully embedding Indigenous culture

by Freya Lucas

February 14, 2019

A Canadian preschool program, Pirurvik: a place to grow has won a C$1 million (AUD$ 1061147) prize in the 2018 Arctic Inspiration Awards. The awards recognise the achievements of those working in the Canadian Arctic, which has a population majority of people Indigenous to the region.

 

The award will be of interest to those working in the Australian early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, as they seek to thoughtfully embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives meaningfully into their programs, and also because of the close philosophical alignment of the award winners philosophy with that of the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF).

 

Organisers of the award said that the prizes recognise and promote the extraordinary contribution made by teams in the gathering of Arctic knowledge and their plans to implement this knowledge to real world applications for the benefit of the Canadian Arctic, Arctic Peoples and therefore Canada as a whole.

 

Pirurvik: A place to grow is an early childhood service in Pond Inlet, Nunavut, which has been running since 2016. Those running the service said that programming and practice was based on the ideals of allowing children to learn at their own pace.

 

In the local Indigenous language, this is known as the Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit social value ‘Pilimmaksarniq’. As the children learn and practice the social value of Pilimmaksarniq they  are invited to follow their own natural curiosities, and to choose topics which interest them.

 

Pirurvik: A place to grow commenced with the aim of changing children’s lives throughout the local region by developing innovative and comprehensive ECEC programs, based closely on Inunnguiniq – defined as the process of making capable and contributing human beings.

 

There is a lot of overlap between the content of the Pirurvik program and the founding beliefs which shape the principles and practices of the EYLF, namely:

 

  • Children are capable and competent

 

  • Children actively construct their own learning

 

  • Learning is dynamic, complex and holistic

 

  • Children have agency – they have capacities and rights to initiate and lead learning and be active participants and decision makers in matters affecting them.

 

Pirurvik educators said that the goal of the program is to augment the current programming for children aged three months to five years in seven communities in the three regions of Nunavut, with hopes that the model could eventually be replicated across the country.

 

CBC Canada reported that Tessa Lochhead, co-director of the service, said on winning the award that “The Pirurvik preschool was born from a dream. We had this dream for our children, and now we have realised that dream.”

 

The prize is the brainchild of Arnold Witzig and his wife Simi Sharifi, who donated millions to fund the awards, CBC Canada said.

 

The original coverage of the story can be found here.

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