Nunavut teachers head to Belize

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This summer, Lloyd Francis discovered that everyone, regardless of continent, loves Inuit games. The Grade nine teacher at Tuugaalik High School in Naujaat had a unique experience with a group of students in the small village of Maya Center in Belize, South America.

Grade 9 teacher Lloyd Francis of Tuugaalik High School in Naujaat holds the Nunavut flag with a group of young students at the village of Maya Center in Belize, South America, this past month. photo courtesy of Lloyd Francis

The opportunity came up while Francis was studying for his master of education program in leadership administration at Nova Scotia’s St. Francis Xavier University. He joined the physical education cohort to spend 16 days working with students at a day camp in Believe.

The school year had just ended when they arrived. Francis said schools in Belize don’t run physical education programs in the same way Canadian schools do.

I don’t teach phys ed, so I thought about what I could bring that would be different from the other teachers and, because I’m in my fifth year living in Nunavut now, I decided to bring down some Inuit games,” he said. “I talked to our phys ed teacher in Naujaat, as well as some of my cadets and they gave me some good ideas.”

He spent the first week teaching Frisbee and the next introducing the students to Inuit games. He said about 70 kids participated during the two weeks the day camp was run by the St. Francis students, offering course activities, literacy, arts and crafts and different games, averaging about 50 kids each day.

It was a really great time,” said Francis.

Kristen Sampson, a teacher from Pangnirtung, also set up a literacy station.

Francis said the kids at the Maya Center absolutely loved learning the Inuit games.

He said they were split into four different age groups, ranging from four years of age to 16.

They all really liked taking part, especially with the high kick because I had brought down a little stuffed seal for the target. We also did the arm pull and muskox push and the students found them both interesting and challenging,” he said. “The older students, especially, got really into the high kick and some of them were quite talented at it, so I became quite impressed with how good they were.”

Francis said the Belize kids were able to be physically active during the day camp, plus they enjoyed the literacy station and trying their hand at Arctic arts and crafts, among the other undertakings.

He said the visiting teachers all left their lesson plans and equipment behind for the Belize teachers, so they could continue.

The kids really liked to learn about different cultures, they loved it when I showed them a video of a polar bear I had on my phone and they learned how to say hello and good morning in Inuktitut. Overall, they seemed to really enjoy themselves,” he said.

It was kind of overwhelming for me because it was my first time to be in Belize, South America, but the biggest thing I learned from the experience is that everywhere you go, kids just want to be kids.”