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Bridging the school divide

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (Nov 03/06) - Grade 6 students at Bompas elementary school in Fort Simpson and Deh Gah school in Fort Providence are getting a helping hand to assist them in making the transition between elementary school and junior high.

A pilot project, Education Through Commitment, is being offered through a partnership between the two schools. Funding for the project came from the Department of Education's Student Success Initiatives.

The students in Grade 6 are growing from children to young people and they need help to recognize that it's a natural process that takes time, said Terry Jaffray the principal of Bompas.

"They don't have to think they have to grow up right away," she said.

The project is designed to strengthen the student's relationship with learning between the school and community environments. Gatherings are planned between the two schools for almost every month, said Shanna Hagens who is leading the project.

In September, students took part in a puberty culture camp in Fort Providence. Other scheduled events include drum making, a science discovery camp and a canoe trip.

Each gathering focuses on traditional Dene values. Students are being shown how Dene youth grew up in the past and made the change towards adulthood, said Jaffray.

The most recent gathering, held in Fort Simpson from Oct. 26 to 27, focused on respect.

Andy Norwegian spoke about the Dene laws and shared traditional legends and stories with the 31 students.

By making a statement and backing it up with a story, Norwegian, the language specialist for the Dehcho Divisional Board of Education, said he was following the way the elders taught.

"The students were very receptive to the teachings," said Norwegian.

Students also played cooperative learning games with Andrew Hillaby, the recreation director. The games were designed to help students recognize and respect their own skills as well as the skills of others.

Students came away from the gathering with a variety of lessons.

You have to respect other people and learn to get along, said Erin Nadli from Fort Providence.

Aaron Nadia from Fort Simpson agreed.

"Just because people are from different places it doesn't mean you can't be friends with them," said Nadia.

"Cooperation is key," he said.