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More than 100 First Nations communities across Canada do not have clean, safe drinking water. Thirst is a glimpse into Keewaywin, an Oji-Cree community north of Red Lake, Ontario, where the water is contaminated with uranium and residents are forced to purchase expensive bottled water.
This guide to the film, Thirst, has been designed to help teachers and students enrich their experience of documentary film by providing support in the form of questions and activities. There are a range of questions that help teachers frame discussions with their classes, activities before, during and after viewing the film, and some web links that provide starting points for further research or discussion. In separate packages, there are support materials available with information regarding general viewing and teaching principles for documentary film.
In analyzing the film, students learn something of the filmmakers skills in telling a story intended to present a certain perspective on an issue of the day. The class discussion before and after the film help students to develop those skills that will enable them to recognize bias or perspective in other films by noting what voices are being heard and what voices are ignored, what information is included and what relevant material is excluded.
The role playing exercise requires that students practice those skills associated with taking a stand on an issue and defending that stand.
The use of a case study approach is effective in introducing the larger issue of the struggle of many first Nation communities to obtain safe water. The use of a film, supported by a lesson plan adds to that strength.
The topic is one very much in the news and one of which students and other Canadians should be made aware. The lesson plan raises that awareness and provides direction and resources for those who wish to pursue the topic further.
Teachers may use the film and lesson plan as an introduction aimed at raising student awareness of the challenges faced by First Nation communities. It also may be used as a case study in resource management and sustainable development; in the larger issue of human rights; and in the current debate about Indigenous self-government.
The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.
|Consideration of Alternative Perspectives||Good|
The film, Thirst, is a critical examination of problems associated with the absence of clean drinking water on many of the Indigenous reserves in Canada and is presented as a failure of government action. The questions used to guide discussion of the film encourage students to recognize the perspective being presented and the values being promoted. Students are to consider what voices are being heard and what voices are absent.
The guide also includes instructions for a role playing/debate in which students are asked to articulate the position of the local Aboriginal community or the government.
|Consideration of Alternative Perspectives: |
|Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions||Good|
Students are asked to create a conceptual map that may serve their analysis of the film. Such a conceptual map may be expected to link the economic activity (mining) with the resulting environmental challenges (polluted drinking water), and the struggles of a society to survive.
|Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions: |
Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.
The film portrays Keewaywin, an Oji-Cree community as the victim and industry and government as the villain. The Guide acknowledges this by asking students to consider who's voice is not being heard. Whether a case can be made in defense of government failures in resolving the problem cannot be determined by a viewing of the film and requires further investigation as to why the government failed and why the Cree community lacks the leverage to force government action. Such an investigation would take the student into an examination of the historical relations between Canadian governments and First Nations peoples. The film and guide, however, in offering a powerful case study, provides a good place to start.
|Respects Complexity: |
The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.
|Acting on Learning||Good|
Students have little influence in resolving the challenges raised by the lack of clean water on First Nation communities. Understanding the issue, however, is a good start and the use of a case study in the film to introduce the issue is an effective means of engaging student interest and understanding. The Guide asks students to take the next step by investigating water issues in First Nations communities in Canada and once completed, creating a one-page newsletter summarizing the issues with appropriate texts and graphs.
|Acting on Learning: |
Learning moves from understanding issues to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community, or for the planet
|Values Education||Very Good|
There is an opportunity here for students to clarify a number of values issues.
|Values Education: |
Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.
|Empathy & Respect for Humans||Very Good|
In providing a close-up look at the daily struggles of the Keewaywin people to meet their water needs and the sense of community engendered by that struggle, the film fosters a sense of empathy for the people of the community.
|Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).|
|Personal Affinity with Earth||Good|
The Guide includes a number of questions designed to have students recognize the link between water quality and the relationship Aboriginal people have with the natural environment by asking - How would not being able to drink the water in one's community affect a person's spiritual and cultural connections to the world around them?
|Personal Affinity with Earth: |
Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.
The film and the lesson plan alert students to the struggles of one First nation community to obtain clean water. The situation, however, is not unique to this community. More than 100 First Nations communities across Canada do not have clean, safe drinking water. Students are encouraged to research water issues in other Canadian communities and to make an online connection with a First Nations, Métis, or Inuit community in their province or territory to investigate water issues in that community. Students are further encouraged to share their own local water issues, and discuss the importance of water to their identity.
|Locally-Focused Learning: |
Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community.
|Past, Present & Future||Good|
The issue of of poor water quality on First Nations should be investigated within the larger context of the historical relationship between the Canadian government and Indigenous peoples and the current initiatives being undertaken as part of the Peace and Reconciliation efforts.
|Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.|
The film presents what would appear to be a straightforward case of a people who are denied clean water because of the downstream effects of mining and the failure of government to respond. The "right" answer would seem to be government action. A more complex response would require students to investigate the issue within the context of sovereignty and Native self-government and the guide does allow for this with the Self-Government hot seat debate activity.
Any effort to address the complexity of the issue and possible responses would also include attention to the need for regulations to govern mining activities.
Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.
|Integrated Learning||Very Good|
This case study of the issue of clean water on First Nations communities requires a cross curricular approach. The exploitation of natural resources in a sustainable manner is the focus of a number of Geography units. A number of courses in Native or Indigenous Studies include attention to relationship with the land, Indigenous self-government and Peace and Reconciliation. Course in Economics include the concept of corporate responsibility. The analysis of the message conveyed and the techniques used in the film offer a relate to Media Studies outcomes.
|Integrated Learning: |
Learning brings together content and skills from more than one subject area
The guide includes a number of questions used to establish a framework for student viewing and analysis of the film. This includes pre and post viewing questions and various questions related to big questions/ ideas/themes found in many curriculum documents. All are questions designed to encourage student analysis and critical thinking.
|Inquiry Learning: |
Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.
The film will appeal to visual learners; the discussions to those who learn from talking and listening; and the Hot Seat activity to those who find simulations and role playing an effective pedagogy.
|Differentiated Instruction: |
Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.
The film and the guide deal with a "real world issue" - the lack of clean water on many First Nation communities.
|Experiential Learning: |
Authentic learning experiences are provided
The lesson plan asks students to work in pairs or small groups to formulate and discuss questions and to report their research findings to the larger class. The role playing and debate activity has students divided into two groups to research and defend their position on self-government for First Nations.
|Cooperative Learning: |
Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.
|Assessment & Evaluation||Good|
The group presentations and large group discussions allow for a degree of formative evaluation and a rubric is provided to assess student participation in the role playing activity focusing on the merits of First Nations self-government.
The one page newsletter students are to submit on water issues in Indigenous communities will be part of any summative assessment.
|Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.|
Students are required to work in small groups to investigate assigned questions and report their findings to the class. The round table debate on Indigenous self-government also allows students to learn from other students.
|Peer Teaching: |
Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.
|Case Studies||Very Good|
Part of the strength of the film and lesson plan is that it introduces student to the wider issue regarding the availability of clean water in First Nations communities by have them examine the situation in one community - Keewaywin, an Oji-Cree community. This serves to personalize and make concrete a rather complicated issue that students may be vaguely aware of because of media coverage.
|Case Studies: |
Relevant case studies are included. Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore concepts in an authentic context.
|Locus of Control||Good|
The lesson may be described as an example of guided inquiry. A number of open-ended questions combine with student generated questions assist students in investigating the use of film to tell a story (process) and the challenges many First Nation communities face in obtaining clean water (content).
|Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.|