Grade 3s at Guardian Angels Make a Three Sisters Garden
Aligning with our grade 3 science curriculum and deep learning goals, we planned a Three Sisters Garden with corn, beans, and squash in a traditional indigenous method. Our project was informed by Indigenous books and Indigenous elders to guide our learning.
Our Three Sisters Garden is a deep learning opportunity in which students develop many competencies, including citizenship, character, and collaboration. In grade 3, our curriculum includes teaching about plants and soil and we intend to provide more enriching, hands-on learning that includes meaningful connections with indigenous people and deepening our understanding of plants from an Indigenous perspective.
Action 1: We launched our project with a Three Sisters soup lunch in April. All students helped prepare the soup by measuring ingredients, peeling potatoes, and adding ingredients to crock pots. While half the students were preparing soup, the other half was working on a beading activity to make beaded corn, beans, and squash. Students took turns with the beading and soup preparation. The lunch was attended by approximately 100 grade 3 students, teachers, school administration, the school board science consultant, and our special guest, Marlene Souliere, a Metis elder. The students welcomed elder Marlene with an offering of tobacco and the students read a version of the Thanksgiving address to begin our gathering. Marlene shared about who she is and some of her knowledge about plants, and she sang and played music. This was followed by sharing the Three Sisters soup.
Action 2: Students built the raised garden beds and filled them with soil on May 17 before welcoming indigenous elders on May 18. On May 18, Mohawk grandmother, Alma Lo, and Metis elder, Marlene Souliere, joined the 5 grade 3 classes to share their knowledge about the four sacred medicines: sage, cedar, tobacco, and sweet grass and how they relate to the directions of north, east, south, and west and about the Three Sisters. Elder Marlene gave the students tobacco to put in our garden beds. As recommended by Mohawk grandmother Alma, students planted 5 corn seeds in each raised bed on May 19 with Jackie McGrath, a grade 3 French teacher. This connected her teaching in French class about Indigenous people, gardens and customs with the Three Sisters garden the students built. The students will plant the beans and squash in June once the corn begins to grow.
Action 3: In June, Grandmother Alma and Elder Marlene will return to share more knowledge about plants and Indigenous ways while the students enhance our garden by painting rocks to surround each side of the raised bed as suggested by Elder Marlene. These rocks will be painted yellow for the east, red for the south, black for the west, and white for the north. If the corn has grown enough, we will plant the beans and squash during this gathering.
Reflection & Celebration
As these grade 3s conclude the school year, they will reflect on what they have learned. They will respond to the same question they answered at the start of the project, “Do you know about the Three Sisters?” and they will share what they have learned. At the start of the project, 59% of students responded “no” or “maybe” to this question, and after the project, we expect they would all respond yes and have some meaningful connections and understandings from this experience. The students will make a plan to hand off the project to next year’s grade 3 classes in hopes they will be able to harvest vegetables.
We will celebrate their work by giving the students some corn, bean, and squash seeds to bring home and hopefully plant their own Three Sisters Gardens with their new knowledge from their learning from the indigenous elders and in-class lessons.