Residential Schools Student Action

Truth and Reconciliation Week: September 25 - September 30, 2023

2023 Theme: 

Gidinawendimin / We Are All Related / Nous sommes tous liés

When is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation?

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which falls on September 30, recognizes the harm the residential school system did and is an affirmation that everyone matters. This day we know as Orange Shirt Day and it is observed as a statutory holiday to commemorate the legacy of Residential Schools in Canada. Truth and Reconciliation Week is an opportunity to continue the learning and conversations all throughout the week. 

This is an opportunity to keep the discussion on all aspects of residential schools happening annually. September 30 was chosen because September is the time of year in which children were taken from their homes to residential schools, and because it is an opportunity to involve the students in the process and set the stage for anti-racism and anti-bullying in school conversations. 

Remember those children and communities dramatically affected by the Indian Residential Schools System. September 30, known as Orange Shirt Day, is inspired by Phyllis Jack Webstad who, on her first day at residential school in 1973, was stripped of her new orange shirt. This year, 2023, marks the 10th anniversary of Orange Shirt Day Nationwide.

Hands On Connections to Reflect Upon Learning


Collaborative Art Installation

Use this slideshow as inspiration to create a tiled display to commemorate residential school survivors and family members of survivors.    

Contact for tiles. 

Collaborative Art Installation


Painted Rocks and other Physical Displays

Think about symbols. Paint rocks orange, create handprints, draw hearts to remember, create orange duct tape messages on walls, use the sidewalk and create chalk messages; reflect, discuss, pray, raise awareness. 

Scroll through slide show pictures beside for ideas. 


Display Boards

Create an interactive display board as a class to invite other classes, parents, and the community to engage in learning. 

Scroll through slide show pictures for inspiration.


Orange Shirt Day Pins

Create Orange Shirt Day pins to raise awareness and keep the messsage of reconciliation going. You can raise awareness by wearing your pin & making pins for others to wear.  

How can you create your Orange Shirt Pin and make it meaningful? What would you want to put on your orange shirt? What message do you think it should represent? 

A few ideas for your pin design: 

Reflection Questions: 

Lana Parenteau, Indigenous Peer Navigator was moved to create Orange Shirt Pins as a way to keep the conversations going. 

Lana and CK Coming Together decided that making pins to raise awareness was a simple yet powerful way for people to just start working together.

Key messages on making orange shirt pins from Lana include: Our History, Yours and Mine, Together We Learn, Together We Heal. As Lana and CK Coming Together sat with our school board, Lana reminds all of us that the pin is personal, you can create as many as you see fit to raise awareness and create your own orange shirt pins that speak to you.  

Share a Story Trail

Walk through a Story Trail... in an Interactive Way: Bring a story to life in your classroom, for a division, or across your school with a Story Trail or Poetry performance.  The interaction helps students and audiences to think deeply about the story.  Follow the walk by having students create a response to their learning through art. Contact for a Story Trail kit for the book, On the Trapline / Ligne de Trappe by David Robertson.

Responding to Reading 

What makes you, you? Who and what things, stories or traditions would you say are important to you? What do you have that reminds you of - or helps you feel close to - your favourite place and favourite people?

Connect with students that all people have arts, stories, histories, and more that are important and help us feel included, and make us unique and special. These were taken away with residential schools. Ask students to think about and list all things they like/love about school. 

Read a picture book (grade appropriate, such as: “I am Not a Number”, “The Train”, “When We Were Alone”, “Shi-Shi-Etko”, “The Orange Shirt Story” (English  French   video), or another book about residential school that you choose. Invite students to ask questions and share their feelings about the reading.  Review list that they created before they read the book, and decide which things from that list were present at residential schools.  


Visit the residential schools interactive map. Find out the location of residential schools. Investigate how far the residential schools would have been away from the families of the students that attended. Discuss what impact this made. 


Invite students to connect with Phyllis' story: What did having her orange shirt taken away mean to her? What does the shirt symbolize for her?  Why do you think Phyllis shared this story?  What sorts of things do people say and do to make others feel they don't belong?  that they do belong?  What can we do today to let survivors know that we've listened and are learning from their stories? Why do we wear orange? What else can we do to remember; to learn; to educate others?


Ask students to create a response (i.e. a letter, a card, an artwork) to their learning about the stories of residential schools and share that response with a survivor or a family member of a survivor. Contact to share. 

Resources for the Classroom

Taking Action and Educating with Displays to Raise Awareness  for Truth and Reconciliation Week: SCCDSB Student Action

Moses Lunham,

Kettle and Stony Point  First Nation

The Flower 


Art to Inspire Action

Artist Moses Lunham, Kettle and Stony Point First Nation, teaches students to paint Truth and Reconciliation inspired paintings.  Through painting and storytelling, students learn about residential schools and the importance of learning and journeying together. 

Grade 7/8 students at St. Joseph Catholic School, Tilbury, retell the story, When We Were Alone by David Robertson.  

Grade 7/8 students at Holy Family Catholic School presented a play to the community to honor residential school survivors and commemorate Orange Shirt Day in their school. 

The Secondary Student Leadership Group at St. Patrick's Sarnia host a live stream interview with residential school survivor Susie Jones baa for all classrooms across the school on the first day of a week-long recognition of the legacy of residential schools. 

Theland Kicknosway, 

Bkejwanong Territory

Theland shares his journey as he inspires youth to get involved in raising awareness and educating others. 

Student Reflections

Copy of Takeaways from Theland's Presentation

Grade 7/8 students Holy Trinity Catholic school create a presentation to raise awareness and sew hearts that include a message with calls to action towards reconciliation. 

Grade 8 students at Holy Trinity Catholic School create a presentation to share their learning about the legacy of residential schools for Orange Shirt Day. 

Kidwin Zhingwaak trailer 2019

The UCC Youth Leadership Group, Kidwin Zhingwaak, share their reflections and are creating their own documentary!

Classrooms and schools create displays to inform others about why it is important to recognize the legacy of residential schools and participate in Truth and Reconciliation Week. 

SCCDSB Displays 

"Orange Shirt Day provides all Canadians with an opportunity to come together in a collective act of reconciliation and hope for generations of children to come."