POTLOTEK, FIRST NATION: Grades 7 and 8 students at Mi’kmawey School have created inspirational songs focused on bringing inclusivity and cross-cultural understanding into the spotlight.

The students participated in a transformative project, learning about Canada’s colonial history from a team of Indigenous and non-Indigenous performing artists and arts educators, then writing and recording songs in response. Their songs were showcased in a community presentation on May 29.

Students took part in The Four Directions Project, led by Canadian not-for-profit Darkspark; an arts organization that uses song-writing and recording of pop songs to engage youth and promote cross-cultural understanding. The Four Directions Project was originally conceptualized in collaboration with a Grade 8 class from the Quinte Mohawk School in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Ontario.

In direct alignment with one of the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, the Four Directions Project endeavours to harness education creatively. Participating youth discover how colonial prejudices and stereotypes were created, are maintained – and may be broken.

The experience builds empathy, intercultural understanding, and mutual respect. The lessons encourage youth to believe their voices can create change in their communities and the world.

Supporting youth to find their voices, engage with history in a novel way and contribute to change is exactly what Darkspark is about.

“Darkspark teaches students about how popular music has and can have social impact and generate social change,” according to D’Ari Lisle, Darkspark’s co-founder and producer. “The student’s heartfelt songs dig into the dark, yet let the light shine through. The students’ work will have a lasting impact in making a difference in the community and in their own lives – and this is a truly beautiful thing.”

The program at Mi’kmawey SchooI was made possible with support from the Ministry of Canadian Heritage, the Potlotek Education Department, Potlotek Health, and Potlotek First Nation.