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“Back to our Roots” Traditional Plant Garden
Our vision for Canada is… to have others learn about traditional plants used by local First Nations. We welcomed local Sto:lo to share their knowledge with us and to assist in building an ethnobotany garden “Back to our Roots”. The garden is available for all to learn from and we made a booklet with plant information : Halq’emelem name, scientific name, English name, description, habitat and how local First Nations used them – which can be signed our from our school library.
Vedder Eco Bears – “Back to our Roots” – A Traditional Plant Garden
Our students love to explore our local environment and have been learning about the history of our place from local Stó:lō First Nations… landforms, waterways, cedar, elder stories, language and ethnobotany. With guidance from Stó:lō community members, we have been able to construct an outdoor learning area that connects us with the history of our place – a traditional plant garden. Local Tzeachten Band counselor Loren Muth joined students, staff and parents as we measured, re-measured, sawed and hammered together our 4 garden beds. It was all hands-on as we positioned the beds in the 4 directions, then shoveled in the soil. We are anxious to plant our Traditional native species obtained from BCWild Heritage Plants. Grade 3 students each chose a plant to study, learning its Halq’eméylem name, english name, scientific name, description and how the plant was used by local indigenous people. The students are waiting to share their research of salal, nodding onion, chocolate lily, licorice fern and salmonberry …. these are just a few of the plants we are excited to taste. While we wait for the first buds to appear, we are making interpretive signs for the garden and printing a booklet that will be available for others to use. The “Back to our Roots” garden will serve as a co-teacher. In the meantime, our school’s green journey continues as our Eco-bear team spreads the word and shares their green tips with others. We now have several classes from K to 5 who are taking part in green initiatives such as recycling (paper, old pens, markers and batteries), composting food waste and gardening.
At Vedder Elementary “we have kind hearts and curious minds.” As Eco-Bears we respect and care for Mother Earth and understand the important role of Elders as knowledge-keepers. We acknowledge we are on the unceded traditional territory of the Stó:lō people and are thankful to be able to live, learn and play here.
“We must teach our children
To smell the earth
To taste the rain
To touch the wind
To see things grow
To hear the sun rise
and night fall
Sponsors: Tzeachten Counselor Loren Muth, Stó:lō Culture and Education Program, Halq’eméylem language teacher Lauralee Kelly, Stó:lō Library and Archives, Return-It Schools, Call2Recycle, Canex , Kel-mor, BCWild Heritage Plants, Fraser Valley Custom Printers Ltd. Grants – LSF Ecoleague , WWF Canada
Reflection & Celebration
We had some challenging weather which delayed the planting of the garden, but it is now completed and growing 18 different traditional plants used by the local Sto:lo peoples (salal, kinnickinick, cholcolate lily, nodding onion, licorice fern, salmonberry and many more). Our project was entered in the BC Green Games and was awarded a travel subsidy prize which the eco-bears will be using for a trip to the Vancouver Aquarium. Others have inquired about our project and the steps to take so that other schools can build a garden. The garden is shared by our school community so it will be used by others and is sustainable.