A teacher from Sherwood Park is awarded for an unusual classroom project he created at Salisbury Composite High School.
Kristian Basaraba teaches what he calls a “sk8trepreneur” course and one of his recent projects, Exploring Colonialism, Creativity and Reconciliation with Skateboards, combines skateboard design with Indigenous history.
The project has just won him the Governor General’s History Award for Excellence.
“I’m very honored, it’s not really about the award, although you know it’s nice to be recognized,” Basaraba said. “I am more excited that this project has the potential to highlight some of these issues on the national stage.”
Basaraba asked his students to create their own skateboard brands, including a logo and lens for their brand, all with an indigenous theme.
“Then they had to create brand assets, so they had to make a skateboard by hand,” he said.
Basaraba recruited Cree artist from Edmonton Jon Cardinal and Cree skateboarder Joe Buffalo from Maskwacis for their expertise and experience.
“My goal was for my students to work with the artist and create skateboard graphics that delve into the colonial past of Canadians,” said Basaraba.
Cardinal has experience as a skateboard designer and Buffalo attended boarding school. The couple were therefore able to convey their views to the students, some of whom are indigenous.
“We had students whose grandparents went to residential schools and felt the effects of it, so they shared part of that story with us,” Basaraba said.
One design that really struck him was that of student Georgia Lantz.
“His image was of a group of indigenous youth in a classroom watched over by a member of the clergy and all of their eyes are veiled,” Basaraba said. “It’s a really powerful image.”
Lantz said she and her classmates had creative freedom, even though their design was controversial.
“I could really do what I thought was best and most meaningful,” the grade 12 student said. “I wanted to show the loss of identity that children faced in residential schools and the religious trauma that was imposed on them.
Lantz is happy to hear that her teacher is recognized for the unorthodox project.
“It’s pretty cool,” she said. “I know he put a lot of hard work into the class and it really showed.”
As a bonus, Basaraba arranged for the students’ drawings to be on display at the Edmonton skateboard store, room 124.
“We had a real art exhibition and we had it for five weeks,” Basaraba said. “So it was pretty neat that they actually showed their art to the community.”
Basaraba believes it is important for everyone to be aware of Canada’s past, including the wrongs that have been committed, and he is happy to play a role in this area.
“I think we see when it comes to aboriginal culture, a lot of systemic racism that exists and continues to exist,” he said. “By studying the past, we tend not to make these mistakes in the future and so it is in the hands of young people.
“I want people not to water it down and put all of these issues under the rug. I wanted to bring them to the fore and my students to kind of engage with them, and I wanted them to have a voice. as to where that path of reconciliation will go. ”
The award-winning teacher hopes to continue to evolve in the future.
“I think this project is something that can be done every year with a new group of students and just continue this conversation.”