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Hallowe’en shopping trip sparks important classroom discussion

Wednesday, October 26, 2016
Categories: Great Things, Happenings @ TDSB, School Web Stories

Hallowe'en is a fun event at many schools and provides opportunities for celebrations, creative activities, art programs and even impromptu lessons. For one resourceful teacher at Davisville PS, a Hallowe’en costume-shopping trip for his son provided an important teachable moment for his students. 

Grade 6 French Immersion Denis Bell recently visited a local costume store where he was surprised to find culturally insensitive outfits that promote hurtful and inaccurate stereotypes of First Nations peoples. He later shared the experience on his facebook page. 

Bell saw it as a learning opportunity for students as well, particularly as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has called for “age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, treaties, and Aboriginal peoples’  historical and contemporary contributions to Canada." 

"I want students at this level to start thinking critically about our country for all the positives we do, and take a really hard look at where we are locally, nationally and at an international level in terms of our shortcomings," he later told CBC News, which picked up the facebook post and followed up with Bell for a news story.

The teacher facilitated a discussion about the issue and asked students for their thoughts about the costumes. “Students made incredibly valuable observations about the problem,” said Bell. 

Jack B felt that the products presented an image of that was not accurate and could perpetuate stereotypes. “It could really ruin impressions that people might have about First Nations.”

Lauren M agreed and noted that “dressing up as a culture…you might get it wrong and that could be very offensive.”

As a response, some students suggested raising awareness by boycotting products and the store. Anusha A  said that “the best thing to do is stop buying these things….When stuff doesn’t sell, they just pull it off shelves because they know it’s not making money for them.”

Other students suggested starting petitions, letter writing to the company, spreading awareness among peers, and making morning announcements at the midtown school. Like all TDSB schools, Davisville has been reading treaty acknowledgment of territorial/ancestral lands as part of its morning exercises.  

“Students have the ability to see social injustice,” said Bell. “[This issue] engages their awareness not only of cultural stereotypes and how they might be packaged and sold, but also about what business ethics they may be able to positively influence as young consumers.”

Related information:

P042 - Appropriate Dress Policy

Culture vs Caricature: Suggestions for Practice as Hallowe'en Approaches

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