NANAIMO — The quest for knowledge is now far less challenging for students learning in one of the country's most unique classroom settings.
The Nisaika Kum'tuks Elementary Centre, which operates out of the Boys and Girls Club on Nanaimo's Fifth St., now has a library filled with books and new technology. The effort to donate the library was a collaboration of several local organizations and the Write to Read Project BC. Lt.-Gov Judith Guichon attended a ribbon cutting on Tuesday.
Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre executive director Chris Beaton said while having classrooms in a Boys and Girls Club allows them to insulate the children with greater access to services, it also lacks resources found in a traditional school.
"It meant our kids were walking to the downtown library branch, which is about a 20 minute walk," Beaton told NanaimoNewsNOW. "The ease of access to books, to literature, to words, new worlds, new cultures is a huge benefit and when kids don't have access, whether at school or home, it's a shortfall."
Beaton said the library, built in a converted office off the back of the classrooms, was a dream of their partners. The space's new shelves are now lined with hundreds of books and students now have tablets, desktop computers and soon-to-be installed video conference capacity.
"This gives our students access to a variety of books, to be able to go and sit and read in a calm, quiet place. We have new technology available in the library to assist with any research they may be doing," Heather Goodall, Nisaika Kum'tuks vice-principal said, adding the space will be a benefit to the community at large and older youth who come through the Club.
She said the library is called the Hummingbird's Nest. "It's the spirit animal for our classroom because the hummingbird doesn't give up."
Lawrence Lewis, Vancouver Island lead for the Write to Read Project of BC, said their initiative is focused on creating literacy space primarily for First Nations youth.
"In many ways it speaks to providing a mechanism for reconciliation that meets the needs of young people. It's about strengthening their capacity to learn and understand the very complex world in which they will live and exist," Lewis said.
Lewis said the amazing gratitude expressed by the students during Tuesday's event, including a drum performance and play, was "a real reflection of a real strong learning environment where a First Nations way of life is respected and it's incorporated into their every day learning from a wide scope of First Nation influences."
Opened in 2014, Nisaika Kum'tuks Elementary Centre is the only public school program in Canada located inside a Boys and Girls Club, Beaton said. He said it's designed to address the needs of urban Indigenous students in grades K to 5. While one-third of the students are non-Indigenous, the curriculum focuses on First Nations culture. The Centre is administered by the Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre, Mid-Island Metis Nation, Boys and Girls Club of Central Vancouver Island and School District 84 Vancouver Island West.
Shelving for the library was built by Nanaimo Correctional Centre inmates, while the Nanaimo Foundation, Young Professionals of Nanaimo and local Rotary Clubs were also involved.
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