The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) Urban Indigenous Education Centre has announced it will be using the site of the Boyne Natural Science School in Niagara to open an Indigenous Land-Based Learning site.
In a release, they said they consulted the Elders Council for guidance and trustees unanimously supported the initiative during a board meeting on Wednesday night.
The site of the Boyne Natural Science School is located on 308.5 acres of the Niagara Escarpment, adjacent to the Bruce Trail and the Boyne River Provincial Park. It is on land that has been designated as an Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI). It has been vacant since 2003.
The TDSB has been working to gain access to the land, classified as “Escarpment Natural” under the Niagara Escarpment Plan, for four years. In 2020, royal assent was secured to re-designate it for institutional use by the TDSB for “Indigenous uses of cultural significance and passive recreation uses.”
The Indigenous Land-Based Learning site will offer programming that “focuses on holistic Indigenous health and well-being (physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual) in support of Indigenous student success.”
“It will also include professional learning, community engagement, partnerships, curriculum resource development and innovation, research and development, and reconciliation through Indigenous perspectives,” the board added.
Initially, one or two classes will be on location at a time and in the future, it’s expected that the site will be restored to allow for larger groups to attend for day and overnight programming, when the pandemic allows.
“The opening of the Boyne Natural Science School as an Indigenous Land-based Learning Site speaks to the importance of Indigenous education across the TDSB schools,” said Colleen Russell-Rawlins, TDSB Director of Education. “We remain committed to honouring the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Calls to Action and to creating additional opportunities for students to learn from Indigenous perspectives and teachings on the land.”
Visits to the site are expected to being mid-2022.