Danita Lewis is once again a finalist for the Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching. 

Lewis teaches at Southgate Middle School and is the district Indigenous language and culture teacher. 

She is one of 25 finalists for the award. Lewis was also one of the 25 finalists for the award last year. She has been selected for the First Nations Studies program she developed, which is designed to engage both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students in grades six and seven. 

Created eight years ago, the program teaches children about Canada’s Indigenous peoples through experiential and exploratory learning. Lewis teaches the history of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis people through hands-on projects like medicine bags, storytelling masks, as well as various field trips to carving sheds, the forest, and the ocean. 

In an interview with Canada’s History podcast, Lewis said roughly 400 to 500 students participate in the program each year. She says the program approaches a holistic kind of learning. 

“Students are given the opportunity to develop their mind and their body while connecting to their emotions. These skills that are fostered can be used and applied cross-curricular and students learn about oral tradition, written communication, about teamwork, critical thinking, problem-solving, environmental awareness, and also media awareness,” she said.

Lewis developed the program with consultation from local Indigenous communities and is the basis of a similar program at École Phoenix Middle School.