For eight weeks this summer, a steady stream of kids visited playground Green Shacks in East Edmonton to enjoy recreational programs based on Aboriginal culture. Some 512 kids from communities including Abbottsfield, Rundle Heights, Bannerman, Overlanders and Belvedere participated in the Flying Eagles program. At the Abbottsfield Playground, more than 12 kids (some days a lot more) gathered each weekday to bake bannock, make dream catchers, bead and craft.
During one of the last beautiful days of the summer, I had my own chance to visit one of the Green Shacks, having my own day at summer camp (of sorts). Together with Gord Stewart from the Aboriginal Relations Office, I went for a brief visit to Abbotsfield to see the Flying Eagles program in action. Judging by the level of fun and excitement from the kids who were participating in activities that day, getting children from across Edmonton to learn about Aboriginal games, crafts, stories and other activities has never been easier. By the time we arrived, kids had already created some paper craft teepees and were about to practice their aim with some archery and try their hand at preparing bannock over the fire.
The Green Shack is the centre of activity for the program. The rear wall of this shack ominously predicted the end of summer. However, we were in denial on that sunny day.
Inside the Green Shack at Abbotsfield were shelves full of craft supplies. When they ran out of room on the shelves, drawings started to line the ceiling and hung from the rafters.
The Flying Eagle program is operated by the City’s Community Services department. It is a drop-in recreation program that teaches life skills and creates awareness about Aboriginal traditions and culture among children ages 6- 12 years.
Practicing their archery skills.
Spearheaded by the City and community partners, the Flying Eagle program is designed around the Aboriginal teachings of the Medicine Wheel in which the Eagle – the messenger of prayers to the Creator – is located in the east, the program service area.
One of the Green Shack Recreation Coordinators takes time to talk with one of the participants.
Preparing bannock over the fire. For some of the kids, this was an activity that was part of their family life during celebrations or camping trips. They shared stories about how they had prepared it in the past as well as their favourite way to eat bannock.
According to Vicki Schneider, Program Manager with East Playgrounds who helped organized this year’s program, “The kids all had some great summer fun. The biggest success was their exposure to the Aboriginal culture and the opportunity we have to share the beauty and positives of the culture with all children.”
The program which has been in operation since 2004 will continue next year. Maybe if I’m lucky I’ll get another chance to spend a day at summer camp.