Experiences from conception to age six have the most important influence of any time in the life


Summary of the Project

In the fall of 2002, researchers from the University of Alberta were invited to participate in a three year longitudinal evaluation of the effect of culturally compatible education, as understood and offered by Mother Earth’s Children’s Charter School (MECCS), on the mental and physical health of Aboriginal children. The school was established by a group of parents and educators who believed that there were more effective and healthier ways to educate their children through indigenous approaches to learning, as opposed to conventional Euro-centered approaches to education. Exclusion of indigenous languages and culture within the educational system increases a child’s sense of isolation and contributes to a child’s loss of identity. These children are at risk of losing their sense of self and the ability to embrace the knowledge that can keep them healthy.

The vision of MECCS is to rediscover the gifts and potential of the children through traditional indigenous teachings and respect for self, others and all living things. This study, funded by the Canadian Institute of Health Research, Institute of Aboriginal Peoples’ Health, aims to evaluate student health and learning at MECCS. Originally only quantitative data, such as individual achievement testing, individual ability testing, self-esteem and behaviour inventories, health behaviour checklists, and school satisfaction surveys, were to be collected; however as the study progressed, a new qualitative method of “narrative inquiry” was included.

Members of the Team

Principal Investigator:

  • Lola Baydala
    Child Health Clinic, Misericordia Hospital
    University of Alberta


  • Nicole Letourneau
    Faculty of Nursing,
    CRISP University of New Brunswick
  • Jeffrey Bisanz
    Social Sciences/ Humanities
    University of Alberta
  • T. Klassen