I was very interested in the internet-based social activism project after it was explained in class. It is my first year at Sacred Heart Community School in Regina and I believe this project will have a great impact on our school community. This summer as I was preparing for school, I asked one of the veteran teachers at our school, Adam Ward, if there had been a chosen theme for AR in our school. Accelerated Reader (AR) is a reading program where students read a book then take an online quiz to earn points. Most schools in Regina Catholic School Division have an AR program, but I have learned none have the same impact as the one at Sacred Heart.
Students at Sacred Heart take great pride in reading books, setting goals, and achieving their goals. Students are rewarded at various levels and once they reach 100 points, they are awarded a themed t-shirt.
“The shirts are yellow: It is our school colour, it is the same colour as the sun which is the highest point in the First Nations world view, and it is not a gang colour in North Central…in fact it is associated within the community as a reading colour now” (Adam Ward, Sacred Heart School).
To some it may seem like just a shirt, but to our school community, it is much more. The AR committee has described the past shirts below:
Eagle feathers are a sign of honour. Many years ago eagle feathers were presented to acknowledge great accomplishments among First Nations people. For the past four years all of our 100 point t-shirts have included an eagle feather in recognition of the importance of 100 AR points. 100 is forever. The feathers are also a reminder that our reading is not only for us but helps our community as well.
Elder Mike Pinay has told us that “Education is the new buffalo”. For many years the great herds of buffalo provided many of the basic necessities of living in Saskatchewan. The First Peoples relied on the buffalo to survive and thrive. Today people in Saskatchewan are sustained by their education, making it the new buffalo. When we succeed in reading we are taking control of our own lives, helping our community to thrive.
Inukshuk have been used in the vast lands of Northern Canada to guide travelers and to mark fertile hunting and fishing areas. By earning our AR points we are creating landmarks that help us guide our lives to where we want them to go. Being a community of readers we are also guides for everyone all around us, setting an example of how we can succeed and follow our own path to success.
The Métis infinity symbol represents the joining of two cultures and the existence of a people forever. Our infinity symbol reminds us that when we earn our 100 points that it can never be taken away from us. We combine our AR reading with the rest of our education to create a foundation that will stay with us for the rest of our lives. Our infinity means we make our own choices and go where we want to go.
This year, the shirt has a totem pole on the front that incorporates the four previous symbols into the structure of the pole. Totem poles are traditional more to the west coast First Nations, but is a significant Aboriginal symbol within Canadian culture. The sleeves have 100 on them and the back has the RCMP logo, our school 100 point logo and the wording “Working Together Strengthens Us All”.
“AR isn’t just reading at our school. It’s an anti-gang strategy, cultural education and a community builder. We run reading contests throughout the year but we make sure students celebrate themselves and each other, competition is a motivator but accomplishment is the take away. One person getting 100 doesn’t mean another person can’t so one person’s accomplishment is everyone’s accomplishment” (Adam Ward, Sacred Heart School).
Bookmarks are awarded weekly to students as they make their way to 100 points, at 10, 25, and 50 points and beyond 100 points. Teachers are also encouraged to participate in AR.
On top of reading during school hours, we also host a monthly reading night where staff and the RCMP come into the school to read with students and their families. This is allowing for positive connections between students, families, and the greater community.
So what does this have to do with internet-based social activism?
I have created a Sacred Heart Library Website where our accomplishments will be highlighted through pictures, videos, and blog posts. Additionally, our school library has just set up a twitter account (heart_library) where students will take on a leadership role and post how they are reading with younger students in our school to help them achieve their goals. The hashtag #100isforever will be used as our hashtag campaign.
I plan to apply for the #iamstronger grant as well. I understand that this initiative doesn’t directly address bullying or cyberbullying, but I think it connects on a bigger level to creating a culture within our community to help students become readers, set and achieve goals, and help others to achieve their goals.
What are your thoughts? Does this achieve the goal of the internet-based social activism project as listed on the syllabus?