Spiritual & Community Animation Team (English Montréal School Board) in their Inter-cultural & Inter-spiritual animation programming
English Montreal School Board (EMSB)
The Spiritual & Community Animation (SCA) Team members engage in regular animation programming, school events, celebrations, activities, community service involvement, and spiritual site visits to broaden the students' understanding of the richness of the diversity of their communities. SCA Team is considered a best practice among peers because of its on-going commitment to inclusion and diversity, the sensitization of concerns for minority communities, and encouraging an understanding of our diversity and humanity.
When Québec moved from confessional to linguistic school boards, an inclusive approach to the inter-cultural and inter-spiritual concerns was needed. As a result, the Spiritual and Community Animation Team was created in 2000. Ms. Dora Cesta has been the guiding visionary behind the establishment and development of the SCA Team. Her clear vision for this service and commitment to diversity and inclusion remain an inspiration.
The SCA Team offers weekly animation programming across the EMSB that cover a range of inter-cultural and inter-spiritual concerns while encouraging dialogue between cultures. Values Education is the core component of the SCA Team's work. This education helps young people see that we have shared common values expressed though our different cultural and spiritual traditions.
In 2000, the SCA Team was established in response to educational reforms in Québec. Through a yearlong animation program offered across schools, inter-cultural and inter-spiritual dialogue, and understanding is promoted.
Making a Difference
Students learn about spiritual traditions and cultures which help break down the walls of misunderstanding and mistrust. The SCA Team’s animation programming also includes education on incidents in history where racism and discrimination have led to tremendous suffering and loss. Students are encouraged to find their own voices to speak out against such situations today.
The SCA Team incorporates an inclusive approach to deal with inter-spiritual and inter-cultural diversity. We strive to promote learning, dialogue and understanding of all the major spiritual traditions and cultures. A current challenge in Québec is a trend toward an approach of a secularism that is exclusivist, rather than inclusive. Continued dialogue with families in schools is needed to understand that teaching about a spiritual or cultural practice is not the same as teaching students to engage in the practice. Additionally, changes in government have meant shrinking resources and many school boards have had to make cuts to this service.
Vision for the Future
The EMSB remains committed to this best practice, as envisioned and built by Ms. Dora Cesta. The SCA Team will continue to engage in professional development to hone their skills and training to serve students. The SCA Team will participate in the Harvard World Religions Certification Programme to further their understanding of current issues in inter-spiritual and inter-cultural dialogue. We hope to expand the team to offer service to all of the outreach schools and EMSB’s adult-education sites.
The SCA Team offers a service of broad inclusion including:
• outreach to students who find themselves on the margins of other social groups in the schools
• support for students from the GLBTQ2S communities
• celebration of cultural diversity and the integration of newly arrived students
• showcase examples of leaders and visionaries from a variety of communities to inspire students using the UNICEF "Rights Respecting Schools" programme
• sensitize students to the legacy of Residential Schools and help them find ways to engage in the reconciliation process
About English Montreal School Board
The SCA Team is comprised of 14 professionals who serve primary and secondary schools as well as the out-reach schools for the EMSB. The team itself is diverse, benefiting from the spiritual practices of its professionals who emerge from a variety of religious traditions and communities. The SCA Team serves the inter-cultural and inter-spiritual needs of the students in their schools. Offering an "education of the heart," the Team exposes students to values education, and the commonality of those values as expressed in diverse spiritual practices. Students are encouraged to take these values and put them into practice in community service.