Sherwood Park teacher Kristian Basaraba shows off two of the skateboard decks that his students created as part of an award-winning Indigenous awareness project.
What do you get when you combine skateboards, art and activism? An educational project that earned an Alberta teacher the country’s top prize for history teaching.
Kristian Basaraba of Salisbury Composite High School in Sherwood Park won the Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching thanks to a project that combined skateboard art with a history lesson on Indigenous culture and colonialism.
“This project helped facilitate and encourage a dialogue between community stakeholders, students, Indigenous creatives and leaders,” Basaraba said.
Over a period of six weeks, Basaraba’s students researched Canada’s history of colonialism and designed skateboard graphics to showcase their learning. Students worked with Indigenous education specialist Michel Blades and professional skateboarder Joe Buffalo to explore Indigenous history and strengthen their understanding of the effects of government policies, legislation and practices on Indigenous cultures and peoples.
The students then worked with Cree artist Jon Cardinal to convert their learnings into skateboard designs that provide social commentary. They organized a public exhibition at an Edmonton skate shop to showcase their skateboard decks and bring awareness to oppression and systemic racism against Indigenous peoples. The exhibit ran for a period of five weeks and received many positive comments and accolades from student peers, the public, and school and community leaders.
“The project demonstrated the power of art and skateboarding and how they can be used as a call to action to decolonize and forge a path toward reconciliation,” Basaraba said. “The recognition this project has garnered allows this conversation to extend even further and continue into the foreseeable future.”
Basaraba is one of six recipients of the award, chosen from 16 finalists. Each recipient receives a $2,500 prize and their school will receive a $1,000 prize. The award recipients also presented at the Canada’s History Forum, which took place virtually on Nov. 27. ❚