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News: Wednesday, June 15th, 2022

The Paddle Project: A Grade 8’s Journey to Highschool

The conclusion of Grade 8 marks a significant milestone in a student's academic career as they look ahead to embark on a new chapter in their educational journey. This year, the Indigenous Education Department created The Paddle Project to honour a middle school student's transition into secondary school. While the project centers around the opportunity to share the teachings of the Stó:lō People, it also provides students with a meaningful and hands-on experience to reflect on their learning journey as they progress in life.

Carli Schroeder, Indigenous Support Worker, and Tyler Horner, former Vice-Principal from ASIA Sumas, piloted The Paddle Project with their school in 2020-2021 and guided the direction for the district-wide project this year. In October 2022, Allison Gardner, Teacher for Indigenous Success, began discussing and collaborating with the Indigenous Education Department on how to make The Paddle Project accessible for all, how to infuse First Peoples Principles of Learning into the classroom, and how to engage students in exploring their identities. She worked with local Knowledge Keepers Paula Olmstead and Ray Silver to share important Stó:lō Cultural Teachings about the paddle, canoe, canoe families, and Cedar Tree.

In early spring 2022, with the support of Indigenous Support Workers, students from Abbotsford School District's middle schools participated in school-based presentations focused on Stó:lō culture. By March 2022, Indigenous grade 8 students across the district began participating in the hands-on element of The Paddle Project. Students set about to design paddles that represented and supported their personal journeys. Painter Foreman, Derek Taylor from the districts Facilities department went above and beyond with preparing the paddles that were used in this project. His hard work and support was appreciated. On May 17, 2022, a canoe trip was organized for the Indigenous grade 8 students to serve as the project's conclusion. The day was filled with excitement, laughter and enthusiasm as 75 students from Eugene Reimer, Chief Dan George, Colleen & Gordie Howe, and W. A. Fraser arrived at Alouette Lake, some students with paddles in hand, ready for an engaging and dynamic canoeing experience. The people, the paddles, and the canoes became a family on the water – everyone had a job. Each seat was responsible for keeping each other safe and doing their part. That day, students formed a canoe family with léts`emot, léts`ethále – One Heart, One Mind.

"It was inspiring to see our Grade 8 Indigenous students pulling together," said Allison Gardner, Helping Teacher with the Indigenous Education department. "The students created paddles that reflected their personal identity and their school family. Watching the paddles be used as a way to move us forward together was uplifting and encouraging. The canoe experience fostered opportunities to connect culture meaningfully with students' personal and educational paths. We had a great time, and I am so thankful to have been a part of the journey."

The Paddle Project was created under the guidance of the school districts' Indigenous Education Advisory to celebrate transitional moments in students' educational journeys. As these students move forward into secondary school, it is hoped that this experience will stay with them and guide them on a journey of respect, pride, connection, and determination.


Kayla Stuckart | Manager, Communications
Ph: (604) 614-5207 | kayla.stuckart [at]