Natural Connections is proud to present A Hand To Stand, a short documentary on seven Indigenous students in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest building their own wooden Stand Up Paddleboards, using traditional knowledge in a modern day world. In a nation where the odds are stacked against Aboriginals finishing school and breaking out of the poverty trap; these kids face progression, persistence, and perseverance. The Bella Bella Community School shows you have got to be bold enough to begin and strong enough to succeed.

Made out of locally-sourced red and yellow cedar, the boards allow students to propel themselves through their traditional territory in a contemporary experience. Blending traditional knowledge of woodworking and the coast, and applying it to a modern sport, this is an inspiring group. This is the future of hope.

This is the first film within the Natural Connections Project, a multi-media education-based series of seven films showcasing Indigenous schools using innovation to engage their students by building on their traditional knowledge in today’s world. Natural Connections is a workshop and documentary project, highlighting some of the actions Indigenous Canadians are taking to educate and involve students in services that can be provided by healthy and diverse ecosystems. Education within a personalized learning plan motivates students to connect more with the world we live in, as well as understand more about themselves.

“The paddle-boards are about creating intimacy again, the intimacy with wood, the intimacy with water… and that’s what has sustained the Heiltsuk people for thousands of years,” says Larry Jorgenson, Executive Director of Qqs Projects Society in Bella Bella.

This year, the Bella Bella Community school-year ended with zero dropouts from a total of 200 students. The historical dropout rate of BBCS is 1.5 per cent, which is proudly and considerably below that of non- aboriginals. The school not only excelled in offering literacy support programs, such as long-distance learning, but they also took education to a new level. With the kids persuasion, teacher Chris Williamson took a new hands-on approach to learning. Principal Brenda Humchitt supported the idea to allow the children to build their very own paddleboards from local wood. “If you are an Indian, especially if you live on a reserve, the odds are quite literally stacked against you finishing school and breaking out of the poverty trap,” (The Globe & Mail, 2012).

The woodworking class of Bella Bella Community School is challenging threats by doing something new. The school not only excelled in offering literacy support programs, such as long-distance learning, but they also took a practical approach to creative education. “I like hearing the kids talk about the red cedar- they like the way it looks, the way it smells. I teach them that the red cedar is their tree of life,” says Heiltsuk carver Ian Reid.

In this story, using a compelling, engaging and relevant project, Bella Bella Community School creates an inspirational learning approach, where the children are energized to connect with their environment and take pride in themselves and their education and culture. Natural Connections captured and documented this project in a high quality production. The film reflects back to the students, the school, the teachers, staff, and the community as a whole; their significant success and achievement. It’s a focus of celebrations.

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