FNHA Hosts Three-Day Foundations of Aboriginal Head Start Training

Jul 8, 2019

Participants LOVIT (Learning to Observe Value, Inspire and Transform)!

On June 11 – 13, representatives from all five regions were joined by representatives from new and existing Aboriginal Head Start (AHS) sites, mentors and Elders for three days of the Foundations of Aboriginal Head Start training.

Aboriginal Head Start is a national community-based and culturally-rooted early intervention program that supports early childhood development for First Nations, Inuit and Métis children and families. This training was also to support newly-expanded on-reserve programs. You can learn more here.

The sun was shining, energy was high and activities were punctuated with enthusiastic shouts of “Love it!” The LOVIT Way is about “Learning to Observe, Value, Inspire and Transform” the programs that support Aboriginal children, families and communities. The participants gathered and re-distributed a wealth of knowledge and experience through sharing lived experiences, stories, ideas, skills and laughter. Several times, Elders shared how wonderful it was to see this generation of Indigenous children joyfully participating in their culture and language – when previous generations had been denied such experiences.

Participants join hands and minds on the first day of training.

Looking Back

The activities on Day 1 were focused on Looking Back. After crafting nametags and sharing breakfast, participants engaged in a welcoming prayer by FNHA Knowledge Keepers Syexwaliya (Ann Whonnock) and Te'ta-in (Shane Pointe) before beginning the day’s work.  One participant shared, “I’ve only been here for two hours and I‘ve learned so much. I love what Shane [Te'ta-in (Shane Pointe)] said, ‘Nə’ca?mat’ (We are one). All of our communities need that. I know I’m going to learn so much here.”

Throughout the training, participants were encouraged to play with the Fine Motor Sensory Kits that were available at each table. Mix and Mill activities got people moving and meeting new friends, and The Six Cedar Tree activity allowed participants to explore their intentions. 

"This activity was all about identifying the participants strengths and their contributions they bring to Head Start. The participants identified the animal traits in the Six Cedar Trees story that they most identified with. Many found they related to more than one animal and their traits," explained Denise Lacrete Sr. Specialist Healthy Children and Youth .

Joan Gignac grounded the work in history by sharing her family story and reminding the group that “Love is Medicine.” Participants also discussed how their programs aligned with the 12 belief statements of Aboriginal Head Start, and visually shared their ideas with peers.

Joan Gignac and Kenzie Fraser demonstrate "Hands Back, Hands Forward teaching"

Looking at Ourselves

After the opening prayer on Day 2, the group reflected on the previous day’s learnings before participants were encouraged to turn their focus inward, to the day’s theme of Looking at Ourselves. Participants worked hard to connect Aboriginal Head Start’s Mission Statement, Principles, and Six Components to work and planning in communities. Further, mentors supported the discussions with personal and community stories that were rooted in lived experiences and lessons learned.

Presenters and participants alike supported the belief that the AHS “Culture & Language” component is the central heart of AHS programs. Most importantly, participants were asked to reflect on the question “Why do you do what you do?” and to share these reflections with those in the room.

After lunch, everyone worked in groups to apply earlier learnings to scenarios, followed by a presentation from Kenzie Fraser, an Aboriginal Head Start graduate. Kenzie shared her experience from Awahsuk AHS and all of the benefits she gained from Head Start.

Te'ta-in (Shane Pointe) closed out the day with a prayer.

With the day’s work finished, everyone was invited to play. Participants had a ‘Rock Party;’ an evening filled with games and crafting aimed at bringing out the kid in everyone.

Participants engage in interactive group-work

Looking Forward

After being grounded again through a welcoming prayer, the third and final day of the training was centred on the theme of Looking Forward. Participants engaged in applying the learning from the first two days to planning for the future. Firstly, participants worked in groups to discuss how staff and programs are accountable to the children, families and communities they serve.

The culminating activity took form of an Action Plan that asked participants, “What are you inspired to create?” This led them to reflect on the work done over the three days and to channel this information into the creation of action plans that would be responsive to children and families in their communities – both rural and urban.  One participant shared in writing, “Together we will make a difference!” 

Some other hopes for the future included: an annual AHS conference, more interaction with families, more collaboration with urban AHS sites, recognizing that many families move back and forth between community and urban sites.

Participants work to apply AHS teachings in table discussions

The call and response of “LOVIT!” became louder and louder as the training progressed. The room was filled with a sense of gratitude for the opportunity to network and a feeling of excitement about moving forward. As the training came to a close, participants were asked to share one word that captured their feelings at that moment. Some words that were shared included, “inspired!”, “excited!” and “transformed!” 

Everyone traveled back to their communities with a nourished mind, body and spirit, ready to implement the knowledge and teachings gained from each other.

We are grateful to our partners Aboriginal Head Start Association of BC:

• Joan Gignac
• Lily Patzer
Yvette Bolduc


FNHA’s Regional Head Start Advisors:

• Ada Mawson, Aboriginal Head Start Advisor - Vancouver Island

• Lorrie Pada, Aboriginal Head Start Advisor - Interior

• Lynne Bomford, Aboriginal Head Start Program Advisor - Northern Region

• Tara Mclaughlin, Aboriginal Head Start Advisor- Fraser Salish and Vancouver Coast


As well as FNHA’s Mental Health & Wellness team members for co-facilitating and supporting this valuable training opportunity for our communities:

• Bonnie LaBounty, Specialist, Healthy Children

• Kyla Schorneck, Event Planner

• Crystal Thomas, Practicum Student

• Denise Lacerte, Senior Specialist Healthy Children and Youth


Playing with the Fine Motor Sensory Kits

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