Based in Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet, NU), Pirurvik Preschool is receiving a Governor General’s Innovation Award for their transformational early childhood education (ECE) initiative that blends Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (Inuit Ways) and Inungnuinniq (traditional Inuit child-rearing) with Montessori methods. The model allows children to learn at their own pace, providing them with a positive, evidence-based first experience with education that is culturally relevant, while also supporting language revitalization with the active use of Inuktut in the ECE environment. Their model is being successfully supported in other communities across Nunavut and is being recognized across the circumpolar world.
Many communities, especially the smaller ones in Nunavut, have little or no access to preschools or daycares – and ECE comes at a critical time in a child’s learning journey. This means that many young Nunavummiut have their first experience with structured learning when they begin kindergarten – and given that the curriculum is Southern-based, many children do not get the opportunity to learn while submersed in Inuit culture and values (and Inuktut) in a formal education setting. Tessa Lochhead and Karen Nutarak saw this need in their community and had an idea to address it – one that was unconventional and brought together many worldviews and different expertise: “We are used to seeing a certain kind of education with one person being in charge and everyone listening to that. So when you reverse that and actually put the power of education into each individual child’s hands… that is decolonizing education at the heart of it.” – Tessa Lochhead, Co-Founder. With Karen’s extensive knowledge of and experience in Nunavut’s education system and Tessa’s training in Montessori methods, they developed an approach to ECE that blends Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (Inuit Ways) and Inungnuinniq (traditional Inuit child-rearing) with Montessori methods. The goal of Pirurvik Preschool is to provide a culturally relevant, positive first learning experience for young Nunavummiut that meets their needs and reflects their way of life. Leading the team in Pond Inlet, are Leah Kippomee, Manager Pirurvik Preschool and Jeeteeta Merkosak, Co-Director Pirurvik Preschool. Due to its success, community daycares began to contact Pirurvik Preschool seeking support, so the team put their programming into learning modules to provide support for other community childcare centres across Nunavut. Pirurvik Preschool is being recognized across the circumpolar world and are now working with the federal government to share with them and other nations like Russia, Finland and Norway how the preschool model works in Pond Inlet. Pirurvik Preschool is truly a “place to grow” for Inuit children, teachers, literacy, community capacity, and the dreams of Nunavut.