Ponoka Outreach School visits Royal Alberta Museum

Royal Alberta Museum staff rolled out the red carpet for Ponoka Outreach students and staff for a recent field trip.

Royal Alberta Museum staff rolled out the red carpet for Ponoka Outreach students and staff for a recent field trip. As a special favour to the school’s resident Cree elder, Joey Deschamps, the group was taken into the artifacts preparation and storage area and shown a selection of Cree cultural items collected from the Hobbema area.

Adam Buffalo, student, really enjoyed the trip: “I thought seeing the storage area of the museum and all the artifacts from the Hobbema area was cool. I really liked the headdress and the old Cree saddle. The other thing I thought was the most interesting was the display cases with a collection of guns that were in the aboriginal gallery.”

“It was wicked awesome,” said student Tray Okeymow. “I really liked seeing the Cree artifacts that the museum staff showed us. They gave us VIP treatment and really explained things well. The Alberta wildlife was also cool.”

The Cree artifacts included a large variety of items such as traditional clothing, footwear and a variety of examples of traditional art including drums, moose and elk tufting as well as porcupine quill belts and even an art piece made from fish scales. In addition, the group was shown paintings from 1930 featuring prominent people from the area.

“I thought it was really cool,” stated Nikki Mackinaw. “I thought the animal hair tufting was amazing. The museum staff have a lot of information about our cultural traditions. I think it will help future generations to learn about their culture.”

Joey Deschamps, Ponoka Outreach School Cree elder, is highly respected by the museum staff and is an expert in his own right in the area of Cree cultural history. His close working relationship with the museum staff provided the opportunity for the school to have the privilege of special access to their collection.

“I thought it was nice how they gave us an opportunity to go behind the scenes and see what not many other people get to experience,” student Mackenzie Wolfe stated. “My favourite part of the trip was finding out the background of moose tufting and seeing the fish scale art.”

Molly Applegarth, student, stated, “What I really liked about the museum is how the staff knew a lot about so many different cultures including ours. I think field trips give us a good opportunity to see things that we didn’t ever see before. On this trip we learned a lot about history in Alberta as well as so much about nature. My favourite part of museum trip was learning about the flower beading and how different it gets when you go farther north.”

“I think the kids got a personal connection to history,” said teacher Shelia Cooke. “By seeing artifacts from their own community. There was pride in seeing their culture being treated with such great respect.”

“I always take great pride in taking our students on field trips,” said Shelagh Hagemann, assistant principal. “Their behaviour is excellent and the appreciation they show to the people they meet and the school staff is really impressive. With regard to this trip I am particularly proud of them when I consider how much they taught me about their culture and the tremendous pride they were feeling when they did so.”

“This field trip is a great example of the value of hands-on experience that reinforces curriculum,” said principal Scott Lewis. “Ponoka Outreach is not just about one-on-one instruction and individualized instruction for all students. We do our best to give our students experiences that are meaningful, memorable and potentially life changing.”

— Submitted