Great Lakes Secondary School and the Lambton Kent District School Board are excited to welcome members of the community to the grand opening of the Kim Henry - Gnaajwi Biidaabiniikwe (Beautiful Morning Woman) Room, also known as Owaanzhgan – “The Den” and school auditorium on Thursday, June 16 at 6-8 p.m.
The grand opening marks the final stage in the Great Lakes Secondary School renovation project, which included the consolidation and relocation of students to the Murphy Road location in 2019. Due to the closure of school facilities to the public during the pandemic, the grand opening of the facilities was postponed. The June open house will allow students, families and visitors to tour the state-of-the-art learning and community-oriented spaces for connecting and observing cultural practices in the “The Den,” as well as the performance and event space in the theatre.
Students will provide tours of the school, including the “The Den” and 580-seat auditorium, beginning at 6 p.m. Visitors are invited to watch a show in the auditorium at 7 p.m., featuring Aamjiwnaang dancers and drum group, and performances by Grade 12 drama and music classes.
A ceremony celebrating the opening of the Kim Henry - Gnaajwi Biidaabiniikwe (Beautiful Morning Woman) Room, also known as Owaanzhgan – “The Den,” will be held prior to the event and is by invitation only. Henry is Anishinaabe Kwe of the Mzhiikenh clan from Aamjiwnaang First Nation. In her 30 years as an educator, she has worked in various roles, including Principal/Teacher for the Aamjiwnaang Kindergarten program, Native Education Worker, LKDSB Board Trustee, The Four First Nations Advisory Committee, and was appointed to the Anishinabek Education System as a Regional Education Council member. With support from Aamjiwnaang First Nation, LKDSB Trustees approved the naming of the new Great Lakes Secondary School Indigenous Room during the January 30, 2018 Board Meeting.
“The Den” provides students with communal gathering and learning spaces, study areas and office space for support staff. The naming of the Indigenous Room reflects the desire to provide students with a name for the space they have come to associate with safety, inclusion, guidance and Indigenous culture. As the mascot for the school is the Wolfpack, “The Den” symbolizes a safe space for students.
“There are many tools and strategies we can use to teach our youth and we owe it to them to use everything available, for their benefit and ours,” said Henry. “As an eagle prepares its young to leave the nest with all the skills and knowledge it needs to participate in life, in the same manner so I guided them using the culture to prepare them for life. The most important thing I could give was my time. I spent time with them in order to learn from them and listen to them. I taught them to give thanks, and the importance of respecting each other. I taught them to be proud of themselves. I taught them our culture and encouraged education, as far as they could go. I also encouraged them to speak with the elders for guidance.”
“We are excited to welcome students, families and the community to the grand opening of the Kim Henry - Gnaajwi Biidaabiniikwe (Beautiful Morning Woman) Room and auditorium at Great Lakes Secondary School on June 16. This is a culmination of efforts by many people who had a vision for the school and how it could best serve the needs of all students. We celebrate Kim Henry and her contributions to supporting LKDSB students, and we honour her continued legacy through the naming of “The Den” which will be a wonderful gathering place for Indigenous students,” said Chair Randy Campbell. “The theatre will also bring the community together for performances, graduations and community events for many years to come.”
“Students and staff are excited to have the Kim Henry - Gnaajwi Biidaabiniikwe Room and auditorium completed and available for use throughout the school day. It is important for students have spaces where they feel a sense of belonging and community and we are pleased to work alongside Aamjiwnaang to continue to offer students supports for academic achievement and well-being,” said GLSS Principal Jim Stewart. “We look forward to opening our doors to showcase our state-of-the-art facilities to the public and we know the theatre will be well used by LKDSB students, staff and the community.”
The school recently held The Revue showcase of student performances in the new theatre. This was the first public performance held in the new facility. The auditorium will also be utilized for graduation ceremonies for the school and Grade 8 celebrations for area elementary schools.