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Andre Boutin-Maloney: Using ArcGIS to teach Truth and Reconciliation

Andre Boutin-Maloney is a teacher from Bert Fox Community High School in Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan located in Treaty 4 territory. Discover how he’s using ArcGIS to support the teaching of Truth and Reconciliation at his school.

In my role at Esri Canada, I have the privilege of supporting educators across Canada who are doing interesting and educationally relevant projects using ArcGIS Online. One such educator is Andre Boutin-Maloney from Bert Fox Community High School in Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan. He’s using ArcGIS Online to support the teaching of Truth and Reconciliation using local connections and resources.

Andre has been teaching at his school since 2007 and teaches core and elective courses, ranging from math and science to Aboriginal youth entrepreneurship and robotics depending on the year. By teaching a variety of subjects, Andre has the benefit of being with more students when they discover their passion. He believes that school should be about exploration and finding your “métier.” 

I “met” Andre in September 2019 when he requested an ArcGIS Online account. His friend Madoka Otani, a GIS Ambassador from Regina suggested that he try ArcGIS Online, geographic information system (GIS) software that’s available to all K-12 teachers in Canada and across the globe. We set him up with an ArcGIS Online subscription for his school.

Andre relaxing in the Saskatchewan Science Centre’s JoyLab.

After a couple of email exchanges, we made plans to chat over the phone. I wanted to learn more about what Andre was planning to do with ArcGIS Online and how we could support him. I was excited to find out that he was going to use the software to map important locations in connection to Treaty 4, the Treaty territory his school is located in. 

Andre explained this mapping activity was inspired by the Treaty Walk project developed by Sheena Koops, a former teacher at his school. The purpose of the project is for students “to combine physical locations in the community with opportunities to both learn about and reflect on the collective responsibilities to Treaty. Each stopping point on the walk would provide opportunities to question and reevaluate current beliefs and understanding from the Indigenous and non-Indigenous perspectives.”  Andre believes that addressing different perspectives is part of the work towards Reconciliation.  

I suggested that they try ArcGIS StoryMaps, as it’s a great way to promote the historically significant places in Fort Qu’Appelle and to create a digital self-guided tour about Treaty 4 for visitors and the general public that Andre and his students had envisioned.

As they started the project, the grade 10-12 students became citizen researchers collecting information for the story map. To include as much detail as possible, they examined primary historical documents, visited museums, and consulted with local knowledge keepers and community members to ensure they were thorough in their data collection. Andre said, their classroom looked like a cross between a newsroom and a police investigation scene with photos, text, arrows, lines and notes scribbled and pinned all over the wall map and the classroom.

Within a few weeks, they completed their first draft of Finding Common Ground, a story map that highlights “the goal to promote shared history and work together towards Truth and Reconciliation by reflecting on Treaty and our role within it.”

“As we dove into the history and context that surrounded each point, we often had to stop and unpack our understanding and consider how to convey it to someone on a self-guided tour.” - Andre explains his process working with his students on the Finding Common Ground story map.

Student Benefit and Perspective

This story map project has allowed students, many who have a direct connection to Treaty 4, to learn more about it and to gain a deeper understanding of their community. It also introduced the students to GIS and how to use maps to tie the significance of land to a story.

Colten, a grade 11 student in Andre’s class shared his experience with us.

"Even though I've lived in Fort Qu’Appelle for a long time, I learned a lot more about the area and the history of Treaty here. Making a map using ArcGIS Online was an adventure!  It let me see my town in a whole new way."

“Finding Common Ground uses GIS to tie Treaty Essential Learnings to local history and tangible locations. It works on the premise that all land is connected to First Nations and that there are always opportunities to reflect on the spirit and intent of Treaty. The exploration of shared history and the understandings/misunderstandings between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people is an integral component of truth and reconciliation.” - Andre

Other ArcGIS Online Work

As a passionate teacher who loves to try new things, Andre decided to coteach a combined Outdoor Education and Photography course with his colleague Elizabeth Ingram to a group of grade 11 and 12 students this school year. Their goal was to design activities that would give their students an opportunity to learn through exploring the natural world. It began with an outdoor adventure with students canoeing on nearby creeks and lakes. Back in the classroom, students used ArcGIS Online to explore topography and landscape features before they went out on future adventures and to map out emergency routes in their area.

Andre and Elizabeth’s use of ArcGIS Online for cross curricular teaching was supported by the use of Esri Canada K-12 resources. They were interested in maps that focused on Indigenous content and tied historical data to physical locations like residential school sites.

“There is no denying that GIS is a useful tool in connecting land to learning. We have already sparked an interest in using it to map out native plant species and geological formations as part of our on-going outdoor education initiatives, as well as the creation of similar walks/tours for different age groups and topics. “ - Andre
Canoeing in the Qu’Appelle Valley – Elizabeth Ingram (Bottom Right),
Andre (Top Right), with grade 11-12 Outdoor Education students.

Inspiring others with the Finding Common Ground Story Map

The Finding Common Ground story map has also been used as a teaching resource outside of Andre’s class. Sheena Koops, now a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Regina is using it in the ECCU 400 – Treaties in the Classroom course.  This course provides a historical basis, a connection to Saskatchewan curriculum, and a practical approach to the study and teaching of the Treaties between the First Nations people and the Crown in what is now Saskatchewan. 

Recently, Andre and Elizabeth submitted a request to facilitate a workshop that will outline the work they have done on the Treaty 4 project at the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation’s Completing the Circle Conference in June. The work fits well with the event’s focus on sessions that “speak authentically to the work of reconciliation in the classroom, school or community.” Through the work of Finding Common Ground, he’s been able to use GIS to connect particular locations in Fort Qu’Appelle to Treaty Essential Learnings – a document used as a reference guide to understanding the foundational aspects of the Teaching Treaties in the Classroom course.

Andre is very excited about how the story map has resonated with students and teachers. He explains “It gives us great hope for the future that close to 500 beginner teachers are examining the Finding Common Ground story map.  At its core, this story map is simply a template – an easily replicable example of what of is possible with GIS mapping and how we can actively engage in reconciliation work with our students.

We look forward to hearing about Andre’s future projects. We hope he inspires other educators to use ArcGIS Online and StoryMaps as tools for teaching and engaging students in their learning. 

Educators share your GIS adventures with us and you may be highlighted in a future blog post.

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About the Author

Angela Alexander is a K-12 Education Resource Developer on the Esri Canada Education and Research team. She has over six years of experience working with educators across Canada. Angela is responsible for producing geographic information system (GIS) and curriculum specific resources, conducting and creating custom workshops for educators and judging and developing the question for the annual GIS Skills Ontario competition in Waterloo, Ontario. Angela has a Bachelor’s degree in Geography and Sociology from the University of Western Ontario and completed the Applied Digital Geography and GIS certificate program at Ryerson University.

Profile Photo of Angela Alexander