Growing up, Brittany Giles watched her Filipino mother encounter racism and heard stories about her father’s Métis grandmother being ridiculed.
These experiences have driven her research as a Brock University Master of Arts in Applied Health Sciences student — and are the reason she is so passionate about putting community members’ voices front and centre.
Giles (BPhEd ’21) has spent the past year-and-a-half planning research to explore the experiences of Indigenous students in physical education, and was recently awarded the inaugural Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Graduate Student Research Scholarship from the Physical and Health Education Canada (PHE Canada) Research Council.
In addition to working closely with her thesis supervisor Nathan Hall, Associate Professor of Kinesiology, Giles has connected with Brock’s Hadiyaˀdagénhahs First Nations, Métis and Inuit Student Centre to build relationships with Indigenous students and administrators. She has also regularly consulted Suzie Miller, an Indigenous Education Teacher Consultant with Grand Erie District School Board. Miller is Haudenosaunee from Six Nations of the Grand River Territory.
Through their guidance, Giles has been learning about and planning to use decolonization methodology, which she says bridges Western and Indigenous research.
“Indigenous ways of knowing are more holistic, with its research practices putting participants’ voices at the forefront,” she says. “It’s about working with and together, instead of a top-down approach. It’s a lot of collaboration and listening.”
One way she plans to hear first-hand from Indigenous students is by participating in talking circles that encourage participants to share their stories and experiences with each other. While sharing circles are led by an Indigenous person, talking circles are less formal and can be led by a non-Indigenous person. In the case of Giles’ research, she will be asking Indigenous students about their experiences in physical education, including whether the experiences were positive or negative and how they may have impacted their lives.
“Having student voices will be so important to me because at the end of the day, it’s their experiences, and I’m really interested in changing policy and curriculum around physical and health education,” she said. “I want to bring these voices to policy-makers so improvements can be made.”
One change she already suggests is moving some of the physical activities and sports traditionally taught inside, such as basketball, soccer and badminton, outside so students can learn about the importance of experiencing physical education outdoors. She also sees benefit in students learning about other cultures’ physical activity and education practices.
Giles recently travelled to Charlottetown, P.E.I., to attend the PHE Canada National Conference and to receive the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Graduate Student Research Scholarship in person.
Also receiving awards at the conference were Brock alumni Stefanie Pavlovich (BPhEd ’10, BEd ’10, MEd ’11) and Jeff Van Wely (BPhEd ’00, BEd ’00), who were two of 10 teachers honoured with this year’s PHE Canada National Award for Teaching Excellence in Physical and Health Education. The award recognizes Canadian teachers who use thoughtful and inspiring teaching practices to motivate students to engage meaningfully in physical or health literacy.
Pavlovich and Van Wely both teach Physical and Health Education (PHE) with the District School Board of Niagara: Pavlovich at Eden High School in St. Catharines and Van Wely at Princess Elizabeth Public School in Welland. Both are passionate about mentoring the next generation of PHE teachers and each mentor Brock Concurrent Teacher Education students who are focused on physical education.