I have an encouraging story to tell you. Last Sunday I led 12 Sunday school kids, ages roughly 3 to 12, in learning about the underfunding of First Nations schools on reserve by the Canadian government and how we can speak up for fair funding. We started off by talking about the creation story, especially the creation of humanity in God’s image, and how that makes every single one of us special. The kids were excited to talk about how we can let others know that they’re special: one 3 year-old said his parents make him feel special when they tuck him in for the night.
Then, using a video from the #EndtheGap campaign, we talked about how First Nations kids are not treated well by the Canadian government because their schools on reserve don’t get the same amount of funding as others. I was encouraged by how much the older kids already knew about residential schools!
When I started talking about sending cards to the federal government to ask them to fund First Nations kids’ education fairly, because they’re special to God just like us, the kids were initially intimidated. But after I showed them pictures of Shannen Koostachin, a Cree teen from Attawapiskat who spoke up for safe, comfy schools for her community (and was successful), they were much more excited to participate. They were especially interested to see the picture of the new DC Comics superhero who is modelled after her!
Here’s a message from one of the cards that the kids made:
"Yo government, I heard that First Nations people don't have that much school supplies. I want you to know that God our Savior thinks they are special just like we are. I want you to take heart and end the gap. Peace out, a Canadian citizen."
The lesson was inspired by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society’s Have a Heart Day, with some of my own twists. (This organization does fantastic advocacy for Indigenous justice in Canada! Check them out.)
Here’s a lesson plan you can use to teach this lesson to your children or Sunday school class:
Age group: best with 8-12 year olds, but younger kids can also participate with help from older kids
Bible text: Genesis 2:26-28 (creation of humanity)
Summary of lesson: We are all made in God’s image, so we’re all special. First Nations kids don’t receive equitable funding for their schools on reserve—the government isn’t treating them like they’re created in God’s image. We can speak up with them for fairness.
Bible story: Read Genesis 2:26-28 and discuss how we are all made in God’s image, so we’re all special
Intro: How do people show you you’re special? (my parents tuck me in to bed, my mom makes my favourite food, my friends play with me…) How does it make you feel when people don’t treat you like you’re special?
Transition: I want to tell you about a group of kids who aren’t treated like they’re special, because they don’t get the (*Define “First Nations”, especially for younger kids.)
Video: End the Gap video
-After the video, ask the kids to explain what they learned. You’ll be amazed what they pick up!
Shannen’s Dream: Talk about Shannen Koostachin, who spoke up for a safe, comfy, and healthy school for her community. You can print off pictures of Shannen as props. Learn more about Shannen on the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society website.
Activity: We can speak up too to tell the government that First Nations kids are special too and deserve the same funding for their education as other kids get. Make cards that say “Have a Heart” or “End the Gap” to send to the government. Younger kids will just colour their card, perhaps colouring in a heart drawn by an assistant, and older kids will be able to write their own message.
Following up: Let parents know what their kids learned that day, and encourage them to also speak up for Indigenous education by contacting their Member of Parliament through this Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue action alert. And send the cards to your local MP (with parental permission)!