Nathan Skolski



Funds will bring Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action into the classroom

As Canada seeks responses to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action, university researchers and local partners have come together to seek respectful ways for educators to align their teaching practices toward reconciliation.

UBC Okanagan is receiving a $1 million Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grant to establish a partnership research initiative for the next five years.

The project—Co-Curricular-Making: Honoring Indigenous Connections to Land, Culture and the Relational Self—is led by Margaret Macintyre Latta, director of UBC Okanagan’s School of Education. Community partners include the Okanagan Nation Alliance, Central Okanagan Public Schools, IndigenEYEZ, Kelowna Art Gallery, Kelowna Museums Society and the universities of Alberta and Ottawa.

“As partners committed to education’s importance within reconciliation, we will be working together to map out needed understandings, and enactment, to enhance collective efforts towards truth, reconciliation and healing in classrooms to realize the transforming potential of education,” says Macintyre Latta. “We are so appreciative of the community support and investment in this project.”

The partnership will bring local Elders and Knowledge Keepers together with participating educators and the extended community. By the end of the five-year project, teachers and their students will have gained deeper understandings of Syilx culture with teachings that connect land, culture and understandings of self in the world.

“We’ll be building an understanding of how to help educators create safe spaces for challenging discussions across diversity and inequality. We’ll be in the schools with them as they support students to make meaning out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission content, see other points of view, and learn from our shared history in order to bring change that makes us all stronger together,” says Kelly Terbasket, program director and co-founder of IndigenEYEZ.

University and community partners will design and deliver learning opportunities that will help teachers in confronting and challenging the colonizing practices that have influenced education. These experiences will study the education conditions that challenge participation in reconciling conversations, grapple with personal narratives, and grow understandings of the histories of colonized and colonizers.

"Central Okanagan Public Schools have just signed an Equity in Action Agreement with our Indigenous communities. The document reflects the district's intention to create equity in academic results, self-determination and cultural pride and awareness for our Indigenous students. This grant will help staff have the necessary curricula and academic supports and resources to make this aspiration a reality. We are excited to be learning together," says Kevin Kaardal, superintendent of schools and CEO of Central Okanagan Public Schools.

Deputy Superintendent of Schools Terry-Lee Beaudry has been the district's lead collaborator in working closely with the Okanagan School of Education and Indigenous community partners to support the development of the SSHRC grant proposal.

"The announcement of this grant will enable greater community and post-secondary collaborations,” says Beaudry. “This will help foster equitable practices for each learner in our district to attain a deeper understanding of human rights, responsibilities and their part in reconciliation."

“This is a project that pursues and is open to new teachings, new practices, new possibilities, new transformed societies that build upon a civil society and builds-up people and how we relate to one another, our environment and our planet. All critical to all our survival,” says Terbasket. “Indigenous education is about knowing where you are and where you come from—our connection to land and each other.”

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit:

Countries around the world, including Canada, are working to contain the current outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
UBCO Associate Professor John-Tyler Binfet, whose research focusses on measuring kindness in schools, children and adolescents, practices what he preaches. Binfet poses with his new rescue dog Craig.

UBCO Associate Professor John-Tyler Binfet, whose research focusses on measuring kindness in schools, children and adolescents, practices what he preaches. Binfet poses with his new rescue dog Craig.

UBCO researcher seeks to understand the good things that people do

World Kindness Day takes place on November 13. For some, it’s a time to focus on and promote the power of positivity. For others, it’s a day to celebrate the thoughtful acts performed by friends, family, neighbours and strangers.

For UBC Okanagan researcher John-Tyler Binfet, a professor in the School of Education, recognizing and celebrating kindness happens throughout the year. For the last eight years, he has dedicated himself to researching how children and adolescents think about and enact kindness.

With World Kindness Day approaching, Binfet shares his research experiences and highlights the importance of nurturing pro-social behaviours in children and adolescents.

Binfet is currently working on a book for University of Toronto Press that will focus on the ways parents and educators can support traits like compassion and sympathy in children and adolescents. The book will be released in late 2020.

Why research kindness in schools?

Parents and educators typically have high expectations that children and adolescents are kind, but there is little research that shows how they are. The work I do sheds light on how children and adolescents define, demonstrate and receive kindness, especially within the context of schools.

I hope my work counterbalances the bullying literature and that it elevates the discussion of kindness.

What challenges did you face when you started your research?

Initially, there was no way to measure kindness in schools. So, the first foray into my research was to develop a scale. I worked with two UBC colleagues, Anne M. Gadermann, a specialist in the social determinants of health, and Kimberly A. Schonert-Reichl, an applied developmental psychologist. Together we developed the School Kindness Scale which asked students to what extent their school and the people in it are kind based on a five-point scale.

After more than 3,000 interviews with Okanagan-based kindergarten to grade nine students, what have you learned?

Not all kindness is the same. According to children and adolescents there are different types, which include:

  • Intentional, where you make a plan. For example, when you know a friend is sad and you decide to do something to cheer them up.
  • Random, where the act is spontaneously performed or reactionary, like picking up a dropped book for someone.
  • Quiet, where the thoughtful act doesn’t draw attention to the initiator. Like leaving change in the vending machine for the next student.

Being kind doesn’t necessarily come easily to all students, however, and there are some who need extra support to understand the concept. When asked, some students struggled with defining kindness and generating examples of what they could do to show it.

What was a highlight for you during your interviews?

I think one of my key takeaways was what I learned about how students see kindness in their teachers. When asked to describe a teacher being kind, overwhelmingly they will describe a teacher teaching—providing support to children to advance their learning. It wasn’t the big fieldtrips or guest speakers in the class that they identified, it was teachers showing they care about students through instruction.

How can we help children and adolescents cultivate kindness?

Ask yourself: ‘How am I kind? How do I show that I’m thoughtful, courteous or compassionate?’ Parents, educators and community members can all help children and adolescents develop strong social and emotional skills by modelling pro-social behaviour—basically, the type of behaviour they wish to see exhibited by others.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world.

To find out more, visit: