"Project of Heart was founded in 2007 by Ottawa secondary school teacher Sylvia Smith, who was outraged to discover that there were only 64 words pertaining to residential schools in her students’ history textbook.
Determined to rectify this situation, Smith developed an innovative educational tool kit designed to engage students in a deeper exploration of Indigenous traditions in Canada and the history of Indian residential schools. In 2011 Native Counselling Services of Alberta took on hosting Project of Heart as part of the National Day of Healing and Reconciliation. NCSA developed a website to replace the original tool kit and began a strategic campaign to engage schools across the country. Through the Project of Heart, tens of thousands of elementary and secondary students have learned from residential school survivors about how Canadian governments, churches and society violated the rights of Aboriginal children and families over decades.
Elders from First Nation, Métis, and Inuit communities become regular participants in classroom presentations and discussions. Students lead in many of the projects demonstrating their learning in diverse ways. They also design small wooden tiles and each one becomes a meaningful artifact. The tiles have been used to create a variety of art projects in different provinces.
Smith said she is amazed by the impact the project has had on students. “We’ve had students’ reflections published in United Nations reports,” she said. “When they realize that their efforts mean something, boy oh boy, it’s really hard to stop them.” In 2011, Smith received the Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching. Today, with Charlene Bearhead as Coordinator, the project has expanded across Canada." (Project of the Heart, page 6)