Elephant Thoughts is a non-profit organization that was begun in 2002 in Ontario. Their mandate is “Inspired Education Everywhere”.
They work with First Nations youth all over Canada, and held their first mentorship program at the Mah Sos School at Tobique First Nation in 2012.
They offer kids a chance to learn life skills outside the box, and the students have been enthusiastic and appreciative of this chance to learn skills to help them make career choices and navigate their way in the world after graduation.
Tobique First Nation Chief Brenda Perley wanted to help kids decide on career paths and speakers have so far included presentations by fire fighters, who let the kids handle and put on their equipment…a real hands on experience…and History Professor Andrea Nicholas in addition to a local RCMP officer and MMA instructor Dwayne Ward.
When I visited to find out more about the program, over 80 students were in the gym listening to a presentation by the RCMP officer. She explained the benefits and requirements of joining the force, and why she loved her job and why the kids might want to look into this as a career option.
She then set up a short version of the Physical Abilities Requirement Evaluation and let the kids run the course. Casey Sappier had the best time of all the participants, beating even the boys!
Sara Bear was the first TFN member of the program last year. She taught a creative writing course that first year, and now more and more people have gotten involved so that this year 102 high school students registered to attend the summer long program.
The classes are scheduled 4 days a week, Tuesdays through Fridays, and are structured like regular school classes with 6 periods a day, only the curriculum is so much more interesting!
One of the most popular presentations so far this year was given by Dwayne Ward, the Mixed Martial Arts instructor and practitioner from Red Bank, who also has his own Volt Clothing Company.
Lindsay Gifford from Ontario is the Elephant Thoughts representative who has helped to organize the program this year.
Local university students home for the summer have the chance to be paid intern instructors, which both gives them summer employment and teaches them new skills as well.
A business class had the kids create a business plan that they then had to market. They had 6 classes to prepare their plan, then they will pitch their ideas to a panel of adults who are local business leaders, just like Dragon’s Den.
In the real life skills class, kids wrote a resume and cover letter as if they were applying for a job at Elephant Thoughts. They will present these to their class, who will then vote on who gets the job!
Another class was totally absorbed in writing and illustrating original children’s books that will be translated into Maliseet by Tim Nicholas and then be printed and distributed to kindergartners to help them learn their native language.
Yet another class was filled with kids hand carving Maliseet translations on 80 different wooden plaques that will be placed around the community to help people learn Maliseet words.
Another part of the program is organizing a youth band council. 30 students are running for positions, with their peers voting to choose who will make up the 8 member council.
An FM Radio Station has been started to give the students an on air presence. Called “Station for the Nation” you can tune into it at 99.9 or check out the facebook page.
The Youth Action Group goes out into the community and performs various services, whether it’s play dates with younger kids or picking up garbage or assisting elders.
It’s a way for them to get involved and they planned it themselves as a group. They brainstormed ways to help their community, and to help foster a sense of pride and responsibility
The kids obviously all love this program, and will attend again next year if they are still in school or maybe even return as an intern. It teaches real skills in a fun, engaging and inventive manner and gives them a chance to create and engage in many meaningful actions for their community. It was indeed an example of “Inspired Education”!