Learning Unit 2 – Sample

Aboriginal Approaches to Learning and Literacy

Part 1: Content (Readings and PowerPoints)

To help you become familiar with the concepts and processes of Aboriginal approaches to learning and literacy, three narrated PowerPoint presentations, one reading, and one diagram are included in this section.

Prior to viewing the content of the PowerPoint presentations in depth, read the titles below and the overviews that follow as an introduction to the content.

PowerPoint #1:  Balance and Relationship are Foundations of Aboriginal Learning.

  • This presentation introduces concepts of holistic mind-body-heart-spirit balance, and connected relationships with self, family, community, Elders, and the land/natural world, essential components of Aboriginal approaches to learning.

PowerPoint #2: Cultivating the Learning Spirit and Special Gifts in Aboriginal Approaches to Learning and Literacy.

  • This presentation introduces concepts of nurturing the learning spirit and helping people to discover their special gifts, both important components of Aboriginal approaches to learning.

PowerPoint #3: The Importance of Experiential Learning in Aboriginal Education

  • This presentation focuses on the concepts of experiential learning as a method of making meaning. It reviews the importance of hands-on learning in supporting balance, relationship, the development of the learning spirit.


Learning  Unit 2: Overview of PowerPoint Presentation #1

Balance and Relationships are Foundations of Aboriginal Learning

Main Ideas:

  • The core of holistic balance in early learning is comprised of indigenous and western knowledge— to prepare children to thrive in today’s society.
  • Aboriginal belief systems define well-being as in balance with other systems the child is a part of: family, community and Elders, the natural world, and the spiritual.
  • Holistic learning and relationship cultivate the values of generosity, respect, interconnectedness and appreciation.
  • The learning process simultaneously engages and develops all aspects of the individual: emotional, physical, spiritual, and intellectual.
  • The community as classroom and teacher—to ensure that each child learns how to live a good life.
  • Ways that holistic learning and relationship can be applied in the early childhood setting.


Learning   Unit 2: Overview of PowerPoint Presentation #2

Cultivating the Learning Spirit and Gifts in Aboriginal Approaches to Learning and Literacy

Main Ideas:

  • The development of each child’s learning spirit and unique gifts is an integral, holistic concept—a foundation of Aboriginal learning and literacy.
  • The learning spirit is the entity within each of us that guides our search for purpose and vision.
  • Learning experiences build a child’s gifts—in a learning environment that challenges and nurtures and nourishes through traditional teachings.
  • Understanding the impact of the residential school system and how it interfered with learning spirit development in several generations of Aboriginal children is integral in taking control of early childhood education in community settings today.
  • Restoring the balance and renewing the focus on the learning spirit is ensured through traditional teachings, wisdom of Elders, using stories and oral traditions of active listening and communication.
  • Development of the learning spirit and unique gifts needs to be included in community work and educational/literacy programs with Aboriginal children, youth, and their families.


Learning   Unit 2: Overview of PowerPoint Presentation #3

The Importance of Experiential Learning in Aboriginal Education

Main Ideas:

  • Experiential learning is important to Aboriginal approaches to learning and literacy, about life and their world.
  • Experiential learning, including learning from the land, Elders, traditions and ceremonies, community and family supports, is a vital form of Aboriginal teachings and learning.
  • Indigenous pedagogy values learning independently—by observing, listening, and participating with a minimum of intervention or instruction.
  • Direct learning by seeing and doing makes Aboriginal children diverse learners.
  • Traditional language is a key foundation for Aboriginal experiential learning in connecting children to their culture’s system.
  • Language teaches the unique Aboriginal ways of interpreting the world
  • Experiential Learning Cycle: Experiencing, Reflecting, Meaning Making, Acting


When you have finished viewing the PowerPoint, spend some time reflecting on the following questions:

a.   How can you encourage strong and collaborative ties with the children, their families, and their community? How can Elder teachings become a rich part of routine activities?

b. How can you include effective strategies in the early years to encourage children’s and parents’ learning spirits, family literacy and awareness of their own special gifts?

c. What experiential strategies do you include that support distinctly Aboriginal approaches to experiential learning? How can you include Elders, parents, and other community members in these activities to support multiple and family literacies?

Read and view the diagram of a “First Nations Holistic Lifelong Learning Model” in the readings package and also available at http://cli.ccl-cca.ca/FN/index.php?q=home

This site, developed by the Canadian Council on Learning, presents the Holistic Lifelong Learning model in two formats: a simplified downloadable (pdf) format, and an interactive web-based Flash overview. To gain the full benefit of the model interpretations, it is suggested that you view the Flash version.

The model for learning is illustrated using the image of a deep-rooted tree:

  • Each aspect of the tree represents an influencing factor that contributes to holistic lifelong learning.
  • It explains the connection with one’s self, with others, the community, Elders, and the natural world influence and support learning across the life span.
  • It supports the notion of family literacy reflected in the lifelong focus of the model, as literacy is grounded in Aboriginal culture.
  • It acknowledges traditional literacies of Aboriginal peoples: to listen well and learn from the spoken word, and to read the cycles and patterns of the natural world.


Roots represent sources and domains of knowledge (categorized into the domains of self, people, natural world, languages and traditions).

Trunk represents the learning rings of the individual, which follows the developmental journey of early learning to lifelong learning.

Branches represent individual and collective well-being, divided into ‘social’, ‘spiritual and cultural’, ‘political’ and ‘economic’ domains. The community’s collective wellbeing is manifested through the holistic balance of body, mind, heart and spirit of each individual person.

After you have finished this reading, reflect on the following questions:

a.  How can young Aboriginal children be supported to begin their lifelong learning journey in holistic and nurturing ways? How can their parents be supported in their own journey and in their children’s journey?

b.  How can this model be integrated into Head Start programs for Aboriginal children? Would it be useful when working with Aboriginal parents and communities? Why?

Full Reference: Canadian Council of Learning, Aboriginal Learning Knowledge Centre. (2007). First Nations Holistic Lifelong Learning Model. Ottawa, ON. http://cli.ccl-cca.ca/FN/index.php?q=home