The Legend of Ponnivala
This key foundation project which we have worked to develop over many years, is now beginning to gain traction in local Toronto-area schools. Our core idea is to introduce students to another time and place in ways will enrich cultural equity in a school’s curriculum offerings. By stressing historical parallels and similarities between the Canadian historical experience and the broad strokes of social change elsewhere in the world we hope to develop students’ positive appreciation of others’ social roots and heritages. We are particularly focused on story-telling as an effective way to achieve this goal. Because our own in-depth Ponnivala example is drawn from India, teachers and principals working with large groups of South Asian immigrant students have shown particular interest in our curriculum suggestions. In order to balance out our own materials with legends drawn from elsewhere in the world we are also planning to develop a series of “parent-student workshops” where members of this key resource pool will be asked to contribute stories from their own cultural pasts.
We now have one private and one public school in the Toronto area that are already using the Legend of Ponnivala in multi-grade settings. These two schools have become leaders in our experimental curriculum work. A second public school has recently purchased a wide range of materials and will be starting to introduce students to the Ponnivala story very soon. Two additional public schools have also expressed keen interest in pursuing the idea. This means that our ideas are starting to spread. The foundation is also engaged in an after-school project scheduled to rollout during the months of October-November of this year. In this experimental initiative the Ponnivala legend will be woven into elementary-level lessons on body movement, balance and self-control using principles drawn from an ancient South Indian (martial) art known as Kalari.
On September 19th the Director of the York Region District School Board visited the Coppard Glen public school in Markham, Ontario to learn more about the Legend of Poninvala teaching initiative being rolled out there. He was accompanied by the Superintendent for the same district, plus an elected School Trustee, plus Coppard’s own Principal and Vice Principal. A second Vice Principal, who spear headed the project but has now moved to another school was also there along with a number of enthusiastic teachers. The Foundation’s role in this large project was represented by the presence of three of its Board Members and also its newly hired Curriculum Design Assistant. The York Region School Board’s administrative Director listened to an excellent series of teacher presentations that were enlivened by many descriptive examples of how our Ponnivala curriculum materials have been used thus far. The Director made some helpful comments in return and asked good questions. Rumour has it that he went away very well impressed! We hope this very strong and positive presentation of the Foundation’s work on teaching multicultural equity at the Coppard Glen school will set a strong positive example and help to roll out our efforts elsewhere. Below are some pictures of this exciting and very successful event. Some of the comments and artwork produced by Coppard Glen school students is included. Their enthusiasm for The Legend of Poninvala is certainly contagious!
Names of Key Persons Attending
Jay Parapally – Director, York Region District School Board; Rashmi Swarup – Superintendent, YRDSB; Juanita Nathan – Trustee, YRDSB; Mary Salvarinas – Principal, Coppard Glen Public School; Padmani Padiyachy, V-Principal, Cedarwood Public School; Teresa Evans, V-Principal Coppard Glen Public School; Brenda Beck – President, The Sophia Hilton Foundation of Canada; Jey Jeyakanthan – Board Member, The SHFofC; Eric Harris – Board Member, The SHFofC; Melshean Boardman – Curriculum Design Assistant, The SHFofC.