Eliza Archie Memorial School

Eliza Archie Memorial School in Canim Lake, BC is a hotspot of learning, which can be seen in its wonderful history and the community’s commitment to education.

EAMS School in focus“Our school is all about our kids. When you walk in you know this is a child-oriented school,” says Barbara Macleod, former principal of Eliza Archie who just began her retirement. “You know by the art we have put up, by the work displayed, by the delightful way our students greet you – they aren’t shy. Our kids have been coached to greet people and they are very friendly, welcoming, and proud to show what they are doing.”

In 1986, the Canim Lake First Nation, just north of 100 Mile House, honoured a respected community Elder with a passion for education, Eliza Archie, by building a school in her honour. The school, styled after a traditional Shuswap winter home, has classrooms that converge at a centre circular meeting area, reflecting the community’s commitment to education and their language and culture. In the centre meeting area there are pictures of Sister Mary Alice Danaher and Eliza Archie – two women who have been driving forces in this community. Today the school has about 26 students from kindergarten to grade seven.

Community and CultureEAMS School in focus

Barbara was with Eliza Archie Memorial School since January 2007 as a teacher and principal, and she emphasises how much the school means to the community. “The community has a passionate interest in education and is absolutely focused on it as a priority,” says Barbara. “Our school is one of the hubs of our community. We hold events and gatherings at the school – we honour our men, women and children.”

The school holds community events throughout the year, including cultural days that involve children from neighbouring public schools. The school has hosted nearly 350 students from neighbouring schools for a pow-wow, where the students go through stations and learn traditional Shuswap activities and the language.

Cultural activities are a highlight of student learning at Eliza Archie.  For example, students ice fish “with a flair” at Bobbs Lake in the winter and at Gustafsen Lake in the spring, because fishing is an important part of the community’s culture.

Curriculum and Innovation

Eliza Archie staff members are involved in the First Nations Schools Association’s Professional Learning Communities initiative, working collaboratively with school and teacher teams from across the province.  The school also plans its curriculum around the BC learning outcomes. In addition to a focus on ensuring that children master reading, the school is also using the Jump Math program school-wide to assist students with learning math concepts – reflecting its overall emphasis on a well-rounded program. “We develop the whole child, and we play a lot,” says Barbara.

The Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) for progress monitoring is a key component of Eliza Archie’s assessment practice, and the children’s success is demonstrated by how many students are reading at or above grade level. The school uses the Six-Minute Solution starting at grade one as part of the daily routine, and graphs showing the program’s results are sent home with report cards. The parents can see which of the Six-Minute Solution stories their children are reading and how they have progressed since they began. One of the grade seven students has already completed the Six-Minute Solution to the end of the high school level.

“We set goals every January and we start off the New Year by asking ‘What are your reading goals today? How many words per minute do you think you can read by the end of January?’ That is our kind of New Year’s resolution – one that each child loves to set.”

Language Learning

A central component of the school’s curriculum is its emphasis on language instruction. Two Elders from the community with degrees from Gonzaga University come in each week to teach the Shuswap language. This has been a valuable experience for the teachers and students. The respected elders have begun mentoring two women who are learning the language and also attending university.

EAMS canoeOne of the women being mentored by the Elders is the daughter of Eliza Archie teacher Mark Oddy. “My daughter’s goal is to be a Shuswap teacher in the future, right here in the community,” says Mark. “I have a grandson and it is amazing to have so much language in my house, seeing him pick up so many Shuswap words.”

Healthy and Active Students

The school promotes healthy and active lifestyles for its students. Each morning, the school’s hot breakfast program sets the day as everyone arrives. The school also participates in the BC School Fruit and Vegetable Nutritional Program, which provides fresh fruits and vegetables to the school.

EAMS firetruckEliza Archie participates in Action Schools! BC, starting each day with 15-minutes of “jazzy” exercise. The school hosts and attends inter-school sports events such as soccer, floor hockey, and basketball. In the winter, children get to experience skating at the community rink, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing.

Barbara knows that she is leaving something special that is getting positive attention. “People are getting very curious, because every month without fail, one of our students creates a very well-written news article for the newspaper,” says Barbara. “We’re trying to open the community’s eyes to the fact that they have a gem here.”

(October 2014)