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Empowering Indigenous Voices

Introducing Culture-Based Learning to Early Childhood Education

Indigenous Woman
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Fleming College shares the success of its alumni, Ashley Wynne, who preserves Indigenous language and culture through early childhood education.


Fleming College celebrates Early Childhood Education (ECE) and Recreation and Leisure Services (RLS) Alumni, Ashley Wynne in championing Indigenous culture-based learning by founding the private school Sage and Sunshine in Nogojiwanong, Peterborough, Ont.

Fleming College’s investment in Indigenous services and education

After receiving a diploma in ECE from Fleming College and working in childcare for 15 years, Wynne decided to go back to school for RLS. She chose Fleming College to pursue both of her diplomas because of their investment in services for Indigenous students and the inclusion of Indigenous perspectives in academics. She was impressed by their culturally-friendly programs and their commitment to fostering a sense of belonging by having Elders and Knowledge Keepers available to students for educational and emotional support; this included events like sacred fires and traditional ceremonies.

Wynne also took Fleming’s Aboriginal History classes, where she first learnt about the history of residential schools. This encouraged her to take more of their Indigenous Perspectives courses and fuelled her commitment to advocate for systemic change in the education sector.

As urban Indigenous Peoples are actively discriminated against and marginalized in academic institutions, Wynne appreciated the efforts of Fleming College to address these concerns and co-create a nurturing environment with Indigenous communities.

Wynne was impressed by their culturally-friendly programs and their commitment to fostering a sense of belonging by having Elders and Knowledge Keepers available to students for educational and emotional support.

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Incorporating Indigenous knowledge in ECE

Wynne began homeschooling her children at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to create better learning opportunities and address the barriers her children with neurodivergent learning styles faced in online education. She then started to teach the Anishinaabemowin and to incorporate land-based knowledge in their lessons — for example, playing counting games with rocks and sticks in Ojibwe.

After homeschooling her children for some time, Wynne became a community resource for families who had children struggling with online learning. She leaned on her knowledge from the ECE program to be flexible with lesson planning and to structure routines based on children’s needs, abilities, and emotions. The RLS program supported her with the business aspects of starting her business. Both diplomas enabled the success of Sage and Sunshine, which is nearing its two-year milestone.

Accessing Indigenous cultural knowledge and language at a young age in an urban setting is a monumental achievement for Indigenous Peoples. Establishing and recognizing their languages, history, and heritage in the western education system is one of many steps toward systemic reconciliation.

Indigenous perspective designation at Fleming College

Fleming College continues to invest in expanding access to Indigenous education by offering an Indigenous Perspective Designation (IPD) in over 36 different programs, including the ECE and the RLS programs. This designation allows students of all backgrounds to learn Indigenous perspectives and knowledge by including content in vocational courses respectfully as well as giving students the opportunity to attend Indigenous events and initiatives.

Indigenous knowledge benefits children by teaching through story-telling and connecting education to the land. IPD intends to expand opportunities for Fleming students to learn these practices and encourage the incorporation of them into standard academic systems.

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