John Arnalukjuak High School students rocked the third school initiative celebrating Literacy Month in Arviat this past week.

They did so by painting rocks.

Jon Uluadluak gets creative with one of the literacy rocks at John Arnalukjuak High School in Arviat on May 31. photo courtesy Romeo Fournier

Leveled Literacy Intervention coordinator Jillian MacKenzie said she and learning coach Tom Wall came up with the idea after principal Romeo Fournier asked them to create initiatives to acknowledge May as Literacy Month at the school in ways that would benefit the community.

MacKenzie said one of the top points of this year’s Literacy Month was the focus on outreach.

They came up with three initiatives: a community library visit for the students, an elder’s love of literacy event that featured literacy expert Joe Karetak and a plan they dubbed “literacy rocks.”

The students all collected rocks which we brought into the school and washed, and each homeroom then painted the rocks a different colour,” said MacKenzie. “The initiative included a homeroom challenge which had the students paint the longest English or Inuktitut word that they could fit on the rocks.”

There was one symbol or letter allowed per rock, which they spread around the school playground in hopes students from the elementary and middle schools would have some fun spelling words with them.

About 80 students took part in the literacy rocks initiative, with about 100 rocks being placed around the playground.

There were some really nice themes that came out with the rocks,” said MacKenzie. “The homerooms were allowed to choose what they wanted the messages to be, and our winner was 28 Inuktitut symbols that translated to, ‘We will not lose hope.’”

MacKenzie said a number of the homerooms went with Inuit Quajimajatuqangit principles on their rocks, such as working together, teamwork, leadership and education.

She said the students really took to literacy rocks and made it a highly-successful initiative.

We were confident they’d really take to literacy rocks because our students love hands-on work and anything they can get down and dirty with,” laughed MacKenzie. “It was quite visible that out of the three this was their favourite initiative. They had lots of fun with it. They really took pride in creating their rocks and they were really excited about spreading them around the playground, which was nice to see.”

Although the students could put both Inuktitut and English on the rocks, the majority of them ended-up being done solely in Inuktitut.

MacKenzie said it didn’t take long for the younger students to become curious about what the senior students were up to.

She said the questions came quickly from the younger kids, which increased the pride the senior students were taking in their work.

A few of the elementary students who were playing outside became very curious when they saw us,” she said. “We’re hoping to bring a lot more colour into the community, increase literacy awareness and promote literacy more, so we have plans for next year to double the number of rocks and, also, there are large boulders in front of our school that we have plans to paint and write syllabics on the front of.”

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