Restorative Teachings Family Engagement Event: Whole Child Health and Wellness and Securing Families

On May 20, 2016, Northwest Indian College’s (NWIC) Restorative Teachings Initiative Coordinating Team held a family engagement event for the families of children enrolled at NWIC’s Early Learning Center (ELC). The purpose of this event was to introduce families to our Restorative Teachings Early Childhood Education Initiative-, share about the positive changes that will affect the ELC and NWIC, and to get a deeper understanding of the families’ conception of child health, nutrition, and wellness. We also wanted to remind families how invaluable their input and thoughts are in regards to this grant/project.

Eight families attended, and first enjoyed a nutritious lunch of sandwiches, vegetable trays, fruit trays and salad with their children. Next, they had an opportunity to listen to guest speaker Robert Desmond, a nurse practitioner at the Lummi Tribal Health Clinic. He addressed the importance of health and wellness and explained how traditional plants and foods naturally prevented diseases and illnesses, such as diabetes and obesity. He also gave examples of how the garden at the Lummi Tribal Health Clinic has both place-based garden and children’s garden. Robert Desmond has existing relationships with several families at NWIC’s ELC and as a result, families seemed pleased seeing and hearing someone they know express the importance of child health, nutrition and wellness.

Following our guest speaker, we had the opportunity to formally introduce families to our Restorative Teachings ECE Initiative. We clearly stated and simplify the grant project down to four sheets of poster paper, which highlighted overarching themes, project overview, and partnerships. There was quite a bit of information given to the parents and families, and in return, they were able to give their thoughts and ideas for the project afterwards.

In order to ensure Lummi parents’ and families’ voices were heard, we created an activity that elicited ideas of how focusing on traditional plants and foods and an outdoor early learning center will support Native children’s growth and development (including cognitive, physical, social / emotional, and spiritual). For instance, one parent explained how she is excited that her son can now practice gathering, while he attends NWIC ELC, which is something they do at home, too. Another family member stated how happy she was that NWIC was focusing on the best interest of Lummi children and their cultural upbringings. All of the responses are being used to guide our project so that it better meets the needs of Native families and children’s.

Our family engagement event concluded with a nutrition demonstration that focused on health and wellness and securing families, and gift bags, that promoted nutrition, health and wellness. which were distributed to all families of the NWIC ELC The families in attendance of our first family engagement event left being better informed of the project taking place where their children are attending, and having the opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas on how to strengthen the project to best meet the community’s needs.

Written by, Alexis Ballew, Parent Representative
Contributing writer, Nahrin Aziz-Parsons, Project Director