There is extensive scholarly research on the teaching and integration of citizenship education within formal learning environments (Knight Abowitz & Harnish, 2006; McLaughlin, 2006). Within Ontario it is an integral component of the social studies program developed by the province (Ministry of Education, 2004b), with a distinct focus on what it means to be Canadian (Brodie, 2002) within the grade 5 curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2004b).
While these topics have been studied there has been limited work completed on the teaching of citizenship, especially Canadian citizenship, to First Nations students. With some researchers stating that First Nations should not be in a state of subjection to the Canadian government (Battiste & Semaganis, 2002), there are First Nation members who argue that they are First Nation and do not want to be recognized as Canadian.
Therefore, the goal of this phenomenological study was twofold. The first goal was to examine how a teacher, working within a school in a First Nation community planned, delivered and assessed the Ontario grade 5 social studies curriculum titled “Aspects of Citizenship and Government in Canada” (Ministry of Education, 2004b, pg. 8). The second objective was to understand how the students and community members, including the teacher and Elders understood the concept of citizenship.
After I was able to respectfully obtain assent for completing the research within a community in southwestern Ontario, data collection took place through interviews of grade five students, the teacher and the elder who was a guest speaker in the class. Field notes were also collected by watching the delivery of the unit in the class by the teacher.
The results of this study demonstrated the complexity of delivering this unit in a school located within a First Nation community, as the teacher had to balance the expectations of the curriculum along with the expectations of the community. The study also provided an opportunity to start understanding the multiple ways citizenship is understood by different members of the community.