There have been many updates to the Ontario curriculum over recent years including developing greater awareness of the distinct place and role of Indigenous peoples in our shared heritage and in the future of Ontario. The Junior School teachers have been working to incorporate these curricular updates into our PYP Programme of Inquiry. Staff and students have benefited from some of the excellent units of inquiry.
Christi Belcourt is a Michif (Métis) visual artist with a deep respect for Mother Earth, the traditions, and the knowledge of her people. In addition to her paintings, she is also known as a community-based artist, environmentalist, and advocate for the lands, waters, and Indigenous Peoples. (http://malenframing.com/christi-belcourt.html) I was introduced to her work through attending the Wabano Centre’s Gala through an invitation from the Chen-Baker family (Elizabeth Chen-Baker, 2025) and purchased a framed print to support Wabano and also because I had an immediate connection to her work. Thanks to this Elmwood family, both Junior School and the Middle-Senior School have established connections to the Wabano Centre and Grade 4 has enjoyed field trips to this beautiful centre where there is a fine collection of Indigenous Art including more by Christi Belcourt.
At Elmwood, we have been fortunate to have beautiful works of art on our walls created by students, purchases from the Elmwood Old Girls’ Art Show, and donations from families and Embassies over many years. There was a realization that we did not have any Indigenous art in our Junior School collection. A print of Christi Belcourt’s Joy now hangs in a sunlit stairwell to be admired by our community. We hope to continue the tradition of having framed art on our walls and will continue to add pieces from diverse artists.
Our students love the print and it has been an ideal opportunity to connect further with a new artist. The Grade 1 class has been learning about famous artists in their co-curricular activities with Mme Bourdeau. Recently, they created a piece of artwork inspired by Christi Belcourt herself. The students learned that Christi Belcourt “used her knowledge of plants and Métis beadwork to develop a style unique to her”. They observed that in the beaded artwork of Métis artists, “the designs are often symmetrical”, representing harmony and interconnectedness, through stems, leaves, or petals that join different elements of the piece together, representing how all beings are interconnected in one way or another and illustrating how we “must also have a positive relationship with each other, as we are all on the same earth”. The grade one students used oil pastels to create a symmetrical illustration depicting colorful flowers, leaves, and vines on a black background.
It's beautiful to see the students' understanding and appreciation of the artist demonstrated through the wonderful artwork they create.
1. Guelph Arts Council. (2021, July 14). Beading our identity: "The flower beadwork people". Guelph Arts Council. Retrieved April 28, 2022, from https://guelpharts.ca/general/beading-our-identity-the-flower-beadwork-people/
This article was written by Junior School, Deputy Head, Christine Blackadar, and Teacher, Chanel Boudreau.