The school physical education program: developing First Nation educational resiliency
Bernard, Buryl T.S.
Eight First Nation students were interviewed to gather their perceptions and personal meanings they ascribed to their involvement in the school physical education program. The participants are First Nation students from one First Nation community in Northwestern Saskatchewan. Each of the participants started the school year at the same publicly funded provincial school located outside the First Nation, but elected diverse educational routes. Four participants returned to continue their studies at the First Nation High School while four dropped out of school entirely. Qualitative methods including individual interviews, focus group interviews, observation, document analysis, and journaling were utilized throughout the study. The decision to use interviewing as the primary data gathering technique was based on its ability to provide the framework within which "people can respond in a way that represents accurately and thoroughly their points of view about the world" (Patton, 1990, p. 24). This method of data gathering places a greater amount of control and power in the hands of participants. Dropout rates among the Canadian First Nation population are significantly higher than their non-Native counterparts (Anisef& Johnson, 1993; Department of Indian and Norther Affairs Canada, 1995; Ross & Usher, 1992). There are multiple sources of risk factors among the First Nation population which contribute to the higher dropout rate. Despite these impairments to educational achievement many First Nation students are able to surmount the odds set against them. This study identifies five elements which provided the participants with the support necessary to develop educational resiliency. The five elements served to rebuff external life stressors and assisted these participants in coping with their environment and ultimately contributed to their ability to remain in school. The elements are by no means independent from one another, rather, they work in unison and form an interdependent network which provided the necessary support to be successful in their educational endeavors. The elements which contribute to resiliency have five main themes and can be likened to a tipi. As the tipi protects its occupants from external elements and provides shelter and warmth, the five elements have served to protect these First Nation students from dropping out of school. The resiliency tipi is held together at the top by the first element, the school physical education program, while the remaining four elements comprise the poles and include; personal characteristics and attributes, family factors, constructive use of time, and school and community supports.