Teacher Julie Ridgway at the Silverthorne Elementary School, taking the kindergarten kids through the importance of the Orange Shirt Day. (Tanya Margerm photo/Houston Today)

How did schools in Houston observe the Orange Shirt Day?

A look at what Silverthorne Elementary and Houston Secondary School did

Schools all over, observed Sept. 30 as Orange Shirt Day, despite the pandemic, to bring awareness around the residential school system and how it impacted the Indigenous communities.

Sept. 30 is recognized as the Orange Shirt Day to acknowledge and learn about the harm that the residential school system did to the Indigenous children’s self-esteem and well being. The date is significant because it was around this time each year when Indigenous children were taken away to residential schools. Phyllis Webstad, who created the Orange Shirt Day out of her own experience of residential schools, did this to spread awareness around the day and to ensure the message of “Every Child Matters” reaches everyone.

At Houston Secondary School, Liz Moore, the Indigenous Support Worker, put up posters all over the school that have a QR code on them. The High School students can then scan the QR code with their mobile phones and get to information around what the day is about.

“There was no big assembly this year, we just went to classrooms, saw a video about Phyllis Webstad and had discussions around the day,” said Moore adding that all the staff wore Orange shirts. She also said that it is important for everyone on the staff to take a minute to think about why it is important for them to wear the orange shirt.

“As role models, it is important to share that dialogue with the younger students,” said Moore.

Silverthorne Elementary school did something similar with video however, in their case, the video that was shared with other classes, was made by students of Grade 6/7 class.

“Mr. Robert Mark’s class created a short, 14-minute video talking about residential schools and why Orange Shirt Day is important and should be acknowledged. It was great because it was the students leading that initiative and teaching each other about the day,” said Vice Principal Jana Fox. The same class also created posters and put them all over the school. Mr. Mark helped his class edit the video but the class wrote the script, appeared in the video, drummed and even learned to say Orange Shirt Day in Wet’suwet’en.

“I am pretty sure all the other classrooms this morning used the video and had a discussion about Orange Shirt Day. Our indigenous support worker Sharon Redford who plays a key role in helping students learn about other indigenous worldviews and perspectives, language and drumming, also helped with the understanding and discussions around the Orange Shirt Day,” added Fox.

Unlike every other year, schools did much smaller events around the Orange Shirt Day but ensured something was in place to bring awareness around the day for the kids.

Priyanka Ketkar
Multimedia journalist


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