Grade 6 students at Eugene Reimer Middle School have been participating in the Equity Backpack Project. (Submitted photo)

Grade 6 students at Eugene Reimer Middle School have been participating in the Equity Backpack Project. (Submitted photo)

Equity Backpack Project in Abbotsford addresses inclusion and anti-racism

Grade 6 teacher Nerlap Sidhu says she wants students to develop ‘strong sense of self’

Grade 6 students at Eugene Reimer Middle School in Abbotsford are involved in a project that is designed to teach them about equity, inclusion and anti-racism.

The Equity Backpack Project has been led by teacher Nerlap Sidhu and involves 60 students creating “backpacks” out of cardboard.

The outside of the packs have been decorated with students’ promises to themselves and the world such as “I promise to help others and feel empathy by connecting with everyone’s story.”

They also include baby photos of themselves to “celebrate their story,” Sidhu said.

She said the students participated in five more activities – including “equity art” – for the inside of the backpacks.

Sidhu said a few things influenced her in coming up with the idea for the project, particularly in a year in which racial injustice came to the forefront through the police-involved killing of George Floyd in the U.S. and the global Black Lives Matter protests.

“With all that is going on in the world around inequality, I needed to create something that provided students with the tools to navigate life when it comes to stereotypes and inequity,” she said.

Sidhu said she was also impacted by her own experiences with “micro-aggression.”

But she said her main reason in implementing the project was because she wants to make sure that no child is made to feel like they do not belong.

“Inclusion and equity are important for students to learn explicitly about so students develop a strong sense of self and an appreciation for one’s own history, language and roots,” she said.

“Then students can start to discuss how they see their world and their place in it. It gives students hope, voice and confidence in telling their own story – lived experiences – while feeling empathy for each other’s stories and life experiences.”

The project also involved students conducting videotaped interviews about equity and inclusion with guests such as school district superintendent Kevin Godden; Shirley Hardman, senior advisor of Indigenous affairs at University of the Fraser Valley (UFV); school principal Ian Levings; Pooja Dharamshi, assistant professor in the faculty of education at Simon Fraser University; and Cyndi and Jaxon Orth, Indigenous support workers for the Abbotsford school district; Awneet Sivia

The students asked questions such as “What does the word ‘identity’ mean to you?” and “What does inclusion mean to you?”

Sidhu said the students were excited to participate in the project and to have their voices heard.

RELATED: Grade 6 students in Abbotsford send cookies to schools to say thanks

One student, Harsimran, said: “By sharing and understanding each other’s stories we can help bring people together and make our world a safer, more caring, inclusive place for us and the next generations.”

Another student, Tanvir, said: “Even though equality is important, we need to provide people with what they need to succeed, and sometimes that looks different for each person. We need equity too. Equity means providing a person with what they need to cross the finish line successfully.”

Sidhu said students in her class will now complete an activity that focuses on quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and adding those to their backpacks.

They will also complete a video after spring break. They hope that schools across B.C. this year will teach one or two lessons from the Equity Backpack Project and then have a student ambassador represent their school in the video.

Meanwhile, the school is holding an online 90-minute professional-development session on Jan. 28 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. for teachers, administrators, support staff and organizations.

Sidhu said the goal of the session is to provide a starting point when it comes to engaging students in equity work. Ongoing support for teaching for equity and anti-racism will be discussed.

Visit sites.google.com/learn34.com/equitybackpack/home to register.

RELATED: Abbotsford students create ‘Character Matters’ website and video



vhopes@abbynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Abby Schoolsequality

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

The Equity Backpack Project at Eugene Reimer Middle School included students’ promises to themselves and the world. (Submitted photo)

The Equity Backpack Project at Eugene Reimer Middle School included students’ promises to themselves and the world. (Submitted photo)

Just Posted

Const. Allan Young. Photo: Abbotsford Police Department
Manslaughter charge laid in Nelson death of Abbotsford police officer

Allan Young died after an incident in downtown Nelson last summer

Sarah De Klein and her family have created a team – one of many – for the Move4Communitas fitness challenge and fundraiser. (Submitted photo)
Communitas in Abbotsford holds virtual fitness challenge

Move4Communitas started March 1 and runs for 8 weeks

The Kimber family of Boston Bar lost their home in a fire. Blaine Kimber’s daughter created a fundraiser to help rebuild the home with the goal of $100,000. (Screenshot/GoFundMe)
Fundraiser created for Boston Bar family that lost everything in weekend fire

Witnesses say the Kimber family escaped the fire without injury, but their home is a total loss

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of March 7

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Surrey RCMP are investigating a “serious” collision near Cloverdale Saturday evening. (Curtis Kreklau photo)
Man dead after single vehicle collision in Surrey; speed possible factor

Police say vehicle collided with telephone pole at approximately 9:30 p.m.

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Vaccine hesitancy decreases in B.C. as mass immunizations set to begin: poll

Two-thirds of British Columbians, and Canadians, would get the vaccine as soon as possible

Software engineer Shaimma Yehia, 40, has been forced to re-skill during the COVID-19 pandemic after more than six years of unsuccessfully applying for jobs in B.C.’s tech industry. (Submitted photo/Shaimma Yehia)
Why skilled immigrant women continue to be shut out of B.C.’s booming tech sector

Experienced software engineer Shaimma Yehia, 40, hasn’t found a job since she migrated to Canada 6 years ago

Ron Sivorot, business director at Kennametal’s Langford site, the Greater Victoria facility that made a component being used on NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars. (Jake Romphf, Black Press Media)
NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover digging in with B.C.-made part

Kennametal’s Langford plant’s tooth blank is helping the rover’s drill collect rock cores

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A woman walks through Toronto’s financial district on Monday, July 30, 2018. A new poll suggests most Canadians believe there’s still a long way to go to achieve gender equality in this country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Canadians, especially women, say gender equality not achieved in Canada: Poll

Poll results themselves underscore the challenge, with more men believing equality had been achieved

This image provided by Harpo Productions shows Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, left, in conversation with Oprah Winfrey. (Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions via AP)
Race, title and anguish: Meghan and Harry explain royal rift

Meghan said she struggled with concerns within the royal family about her son’s skin colour

Most Read