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First Nations Partnership Programs:
Demonstrating a Generative Curriculum Model for Strengthening Community Capacity for Early Childhood and Youth Care

First Nations Partnership Programs: Background

Native children

This site describes a unique program of training that strengthens capacity within cultural communities to create and operate services for children, youth, and families. This is a university accredited program of Early Childhood and Youth Care training that leads to a Diploma from the School of Child and Youth Care at the University of Victoria, located in the southwest corner of British Columbia on the west coast of Canada.

The program was developed in response to a request from a group of First Nations communities in central Canada represented by the Meadow Lake Tribal Council. In 1989, this Council sought child care training for community members that would be delivered in their own communities and that would incorporate and ensure the continuity of their own cultural practices, values, language, and spirituality. They had rejected mainstream programs of training because they did not address these two requirements; namely, community-based delivery, and cultural representation throughout the training. Through the partnership that ensued between the University of Victoria and the Meadow Lake Tribal Council, an innovative model for ensuring the cultural representation of communities evolved, that Dr. Alan Pence called 'The Generative Curriculum Model.' Using this model, the training program has been delivered with eight First Nations organizations to date. From 1998 - 2000, Dr. Jessica Ball and Dr. Alan Pence undertook a comprehensive evaluation of the first seven programs, in collaboration with First Nations partners.

First Nations Partnership Programs: Overview

First Nations Partnership Programs (FNPP) is the name given to the programs delivered to date using the Generative Curriculum Model. The partnerships involve a two-year, university-accredited training program that is delivered in First Nations communities through partnerships with the University of Victoria. However, the program could be used in other cultural contexts in addition to First Nations. It is ideally suited to use in cultural communities that are motivated to participate actively in co-delivery of training within their own geographical location, and to playing an active role in bringing cultural content and considerations of community life into the training curriculum. The programs focus on Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) as well as youth care (CYC). The scope of the program can be extended provided that resourcing can be found for curriculum development.

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FNPP home page
FNPP Overview
First Nations Partnership Programs: Background
First Nations Self-Determination
Program Philosophy - Paradigm Shift
Generative Curriculum Model  Bicultural Program
Capacity Building
Bicultural Partnership
Community-based delivery
Community-based Child and Youth Care Diploma Program
Courses and course descriptions
Intergenerational Teaching and	Learning
Intergenerational Facilitation
Program evaluation - funders, methods, and findings
Program Outcomes
Educational Outcomes
Vocational Outcomes/ Community	Development
Cultural healing
Social Cohesion and Social Inclusion/ Community Development
Web Resources and Linksspacer
FNPP publications
FNPP contacts
Little Drummers group at an honouring ceremony for 		program graduates at Tl'azt'en Nation partnership program, Tache, British Columbia

'Little Drummers' group at an honouring ceremony for program graduates at Tl'azt'en Nation partnership program, Tache, British Columbia

The training program leads to a Diploma in Child and Youth Care granted by the University of Victoria. The program also meets the requirements of the Ministry of Health in British Columbia for Basic Certification in Early Childhood Education (ECE), following a required period of supervised work experience. Curriculum development efforts are now underway to extend the scope of the program to meet certification requirements for Post-Basic Certification in Infant Care and Special Needs. Additional course work that would enable program graduates to take on roles in child protection is also being explored. (Refer to Community-Based Child and Youth Care Diploma Program)

Interwoven throughout the partnership programs are the principles of a unique 'Generative Curriculum Model' (Pence & Ball), whereby a central place is afforded to indigenous knowledge and the role of elders in creating and teaching students about child care and development. (Refer to Generative Curriculum Model)

The over-riding aim of FNPP has been to support First Nations communities on reserves and other vulnerable and/or remote cultural communities in strengthening their capacity to provide safe, stimulating family and community environments that will promote optimal health and development. (Refer to Community Development)

Margaret McIntyre (Dene translator), Margaret Lambert		(student), Mary Rose Opekokew (instructor), Marie McCallum (Administrator), Meadow Lake Tribal Council partnership		program, Flying Dust Reserve, Saskatchewan.
Margaret McIntyre (Dene translator), Margaret Lambert (student), Mary Rose Opekokew (instructor), Marie McCallum (Administrator), Meadow Lake Tribal Council partnership program, Flying Dust Reserve, Saskatchewan.

Program background and community-orientation

First Nations Partnership Programs began in 1989 when the Meadow Lake Tribal Council of Saskatchewan asked Alan Pence at the University of Victoria's School of Child and Youth Care to join with them in a new way of thinking about how to promote child well-being in aboriginal communities. Like many First Nations communities, the Tribal Council had decided to introduce out-of-home care centres to support children's well-being, but they wanted community members to plan and operate these centres. Thus, they sought a training program that would embody valued aspects of their traditional and contemporary Cree and Dene cultures and languages, and that would also draw upon useful knowledge from mainstream theory, research, and practice. What emerged through this first pilot program was a model for generating curriculum that is:

  1. bicultural;
  2. construes children within the broad ecology of the community;
  3. relies on local knowledge, perspectives, and experiences contributed by elders and other community resource people; and
  4. furthers community development through the program being is delivered entirely in and by the community, with support as needed from a university-based team. (Refer to Community-based delivery and Community development)

First Nations partners

First Nations communities on reserves that have partnered with the University of Victoria to deliver the training program include:

  • Meadow Lake Tribal Council, Saskatchewan
  • Cowichan Tribes, British Columbia
  • Mount Currie First Nation, British Columbia
  • Nzen'man Child and Family Services, British Columbia
  • Onion Lake First Nation, Saskatchewan
  • Tl'azt'en Nation, British Columbia
  • Treaty 8 Tribal Association, British Columbia.
  • Little Shuswap Indian Band and associated communities, British Columbia

Children at Grand Opening of Pqusnalcw (Eagle's Nest) Centre, Housing Xit'olacw Child Care Centre, Mount Currie First Nation, British Columbia

Children at Grand Opening of Pqusnalcw (Eagle's Nest) Centre, Housing Xit'olacw Child Care Centre, Mount Currie First Nation, British Columbia

The university-based partners housed in the School of Child and Youth Care at the University of Victoria are interested in extending the reach of this effective community-based program through partnerships with other First Nations communities.

Non-First Nations communities are also welcome to explore partnerships with the university-based team. Due to the flexibility of the model for program delivery and the openness of the curriculum to input from knowledgeable community members, the program is likely to benefit a wide range of cultural communities and contribute to new learning among the university-based partners. (Refer to Partnership)

Research evaluation (Refer to Program evaluation)

A comprehensive program of research conducted from 1998 to 2000 has yielded clear evidence of the far reaching benefits of this innovative, community-drive, participatory approach. Student retention and successful program completion across the seven partnership programs is twice the national average for First Nations post-secondary training. More importantly, over 95% of program graduates remain in their own communities, rather than the common pattern of going away for training and not returning. To date, with three programs just completed in 1999, 65% of program graduates have created new programs for children and youth, 13% have assumed staff positions in existing programs in their communities, and 11% are continuing with educational studies. Children's programs mounted by program graduates include: out of home daycares; family daycares; Aboriginal Head Start; infant development programs; youth services; school readiness programs; language enhancement programs; and home-school liaison programs. (Refer to Community development)

In developing new programs, program graduates have the benefit of training that has embodied the culture of the community and that has taken account of the living conditions, needs, and goals of children and families in their community. Because this participatory training model involves the community in all phases of program planning, delivery, and evaluation, program graduates report few of the difficulties commonly encountered when soliciting parents' involvement, elder participation, and other community support in mounting new programs. (Refer to Community-based delivery)

The partnership programs have significant positive impacts on the students in ways that result in healthier family environments and positive role models for children. Over 90% of program graduates report that their own parenting and grand parenting behaviours and values have significantly improved. Many program graduates report that they have kindled or rekindled mutually supportive relationships with older people in their community, many of whom played contributory roles in teaching and learning in the training program. Program graduates who suffered ill effects of residential schooling have reported significant psychosocial healing and recovery of cultural identity and pride as a result of their program involvement and subsequent community leadership as advocates for children and youth.

Community administrators have also spoken of the contribution of the program to cultural healing. One of the key program elements that accounts for these far-reaching effects is the centrality of intergenerational teaching and learning through the program. Students, instructors, administrators, and elders themselves have underscored the importance of the relationships formed between members of older and younger generations, and the unique wisdom and experience passed on by elders in class meetings. In most partnering communities, it is reported that through their high profile involvement in the training program, elders are reinstated to their traditional place as respected teachers and guides. (Refer to Intergenerational teaching and learning) Overall, the research has documented unprecedented positive outcomes of this community-based, culturally grounded, partnership approach to capacity building.

Student and Elder in a program activity at Treaty 8	partnership program Student and Elder in a program activity at Treaty 8 partnership program

Elder Margaret Lester with granddaughter and program graduate Eunice Sam, Mount Currie First Nation partnership program

Elder Margaret Lester with granddaughter and program graduate Eunice Sam, Mount Currie First Nation partnership program


The seven pilot partnerships have demonstrated a viable approach to supporting community initiatives aimed at improving developmental conditions for children. One question of interest to many community leaders and institutional administrators is: What is the scope of applicability of the Generative Curriculum Model? Because of the post-modernist values and constructivist methodology of the Generative Curriculum Model, each of the partnership programs has been in some ways unique, bearing the signatures of the particular First Nation culture, locale, and individuals involved. However, the community-supportive, ecological and bicultural principles of the Generative Curriculum Model have guided each partnership and are key determinants of the success of each program. It seems clear that this model has nation-wide applicability across a range of remote and/or vulnerable community and cultural settings where there is a commitment to building capacity and enhancing conditions to support and stimulate.

Questions for future exploration through partnerships

One goal of the First Nations Partnership Programs university-team is to explore the utility of the Generative Curriculum Model across a wider range of community circumstances and cultural constituents. What are the core (indispensable) elements of the partnership program process and content that are necessary to realize the positive ecological impacts documented in the seven pilot programs? How can mainstream institutions become better positioned to support capacity building in small, vulnerable communities? How and what can mainstream fields of child care and development learn from indigenous experiences of supporting children's development through cultural and community traditions and initiatives.

Synopsis: First Nations Partnership Programs

Eight partnership programs between the University of Victoria and First Nations communities have explored the value of bringing community Elders and other community resource people alongside mainstream teaching and learning in post-secondary training in order to ensure bicultural, community-relevant, community-involving processes and outcomes. First Nations community partners engage with a curriculum team from the mainstream institution to develop and deliver community-based, culturally sensitive course work leading to a diploma in Child and Youth Care.

The program was initiated in 1989 when Saskatchewan's Meadow Lake Tribal Council approached Dr. Alan Pence to cooperatively develop a bicultural curriculum that prepared First Nations students to deliver quality child care programs both on and off reserve. The partnership resulted in a 'Generative Curriculum Model' of creating curriculum in which cultural knowledge about child development, child-rearing practices, and community life are considered alongside sampling of Euro-Western theory, research, and practice. These partnerships have clearly shown the tremendous positive potential of involving the community in every step of program development and delivery, and grounding the development of human service practitioners in intergenerational relationships, community-collaboration, and cultural revitalization.

First Nations Partnership Programs: University-based team.

Refer to Program Contacts


Program evaluation and preparation of this website was funded by:

  • The Lawson Foundation
  • The Vancouver Foundation
  • Human Resources Development Canada: Child Care Visions.