Sherwood Park, AB. — Glen Allan Elementary is helping create an inclusive learning environment through new lesson plans, focused on community building. The lessons—introduced at the beginning of the year—follow the school’s mission to provide a space of dignity and respect by encouraging students to accept one another, regardless of differences. “Elementary is the perfect time to teach students about diversity,” says Marnie Ferguson, the Counsellor at Glen Allan Elementary. “Students inherently understand these ideas because they aren’t concerned with adhering to social norms yet, they just see each other.”
After receiving money from the province through the Classroom Improvement Fund, the school reached out to altView, a Strathcona County-based non-profit dedicated to supporting LGBTQ2S+ groups in Alberta, for help organizing lessons that would promote inclusivity year-round and offer professional development to staff. The lessons focus on different types of families, gender-stereotyped careers and gender expression through clothing. All of the lesson plans are age appropriate and encourage students, from kindergarten to Grade 6, to use their own environment to make important connections about diversity. “The goal is to promote and nurture empathy,” says Michael Green, the Deputy Director of altView. “By doing that, we can collectively build a foundation for critical thinking and an understanding that, fundamentally, everyone is the same.”
A goal that seems to be paying off. Since introducing the lessons, students are able to recognize the strength of diversity in their school. For example, one of the lessons addresses physical and mental disabilities. Students were able to recognize peers who face similar circumstances and develop deeper relationships with one another than they had before—seeing past the apparent differences and instead finding ways that they are alike. “They look at each other as friends instead of just classmates,” says Ferguson. “When we give children the tools to understand why and ask questions, they become caring individuals. It has surprised me what a big impact these lessons are having, on the students, the teachers and the overall community.”
Glen Allan Elementary is the first elementary school in the province to adopt diversity plans, which have since been shared across Elk Island Public Schools, and with both Wolf Creek Public Schools and the Battle River School Division. Next year, in addition to continuing with the lessons, the school is planning to start a Connections Club for any student who feels disconnected from their peers or the community. The club will offer a place for students to find a sense of belonging and build meaningful relationships with others.
Glen Allan Elementary serves approximately 450 students in kindergarten to Grade 6 and is one of 42 schools within Elk Island Public Schools. More information about the school is available at www.glenallanelementary.ca.
For more information contact:
Marnie Ferguson, Counsellor, Glen Allan Elementary 780-467-5519
Laura McNabb, Director, Communication Services, EIPS 780-417-8204 cell 780-405-4902