School Name: Bothwell Elementary
School District: SD#36 Surrey
Inquiry Team Members: Cheryl Corrick: firstname.lastname@example.org, Allison Hotti email@example.com
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Primary (K-3), Intermediate (4-7)
Curricular Area(s): Applied Design, skills & Technology, Arts Education, Science
Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Experiential learning, First Peoples Principles of Learning, Inquiry-based learning, Land, Nature or Place-based learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Would the students develop a deeper sense of place (relationship with the land) by learning about ecoprints and making art with items from their natural world?
Scanning: This inquiry focus area was created because we wanted the students to explore and connect to their natural world through the arts.
Focus: We were looking to find meaningful activities for the students to do in their outdoor education time. We hoped that in creating a relationship with parts of their environment that we could foster an ongoing relationship of care for the environment.
Hunch: Our school was an emergency pop-up school in response to COVID, so there were no ongoing practices at the school. We were hoping to create a program that was experiential in context and based in activities that engage the mind, body and heart, and reconnecting the human and natural worlds.
New Professional Learning: Our learning was guided by the Spiral of Inquiry book and First Peoples Principles of Learning. One team member took a 3-day ecoprint workshop via Zoom, where they learned from an artist in Chile about her ecoprint practices and learned the technique for printing onto paper, silk, and cotton. That team member took the training and shared out to the other adults at the school. This learning was supplemented by other books about ecoprinting, as well as internet research.
We attempted to embed our practice in the First Peoples Principles of Learning and focused on connectedness, reciprocal relationships, and a sense of place.
Taking Action: The first time we went out onto the land we let the students choose any plants that they connected with to bring back to school for their ecoprints. In order for ecoprints to be successful they have to be rich in tannins (the part that transfers colour to the paper or material), so many of the selected plants did not transfer their colour well. We had the students thank the plant for sharing its leaves, and took only the small amount of leaves that we would be using. The first batch had a few successful prints but overall was underwhelming. We were reminded that learning takes patience and time. On the second attempt, we selected three types of leaves that we knew to be rich in tannins and just collected those ones. This ecoprint was more successful and some of the transfers were quite beautiful. We decided to make silk scarves for Mother’s Day presents, and we bought yards of silk from a local shop. The weave looked strange to the adults but we went forward and began the 3-day process of printing on silk (the chemical process is different for silk and cotton). This was very disappointing as the ecoprint did not take and we figured out that the material was not actually silk.
Checking: We are teaching a small group of Indigenous students on their own traditional territory. Our original goal had been to strengthen their relationship to the land but we were too late. The students in our school were deeply connected to their land in a way that we don’t even completely understand, and in hindsight we had made some assumptions in thinking that they needed activities to strengthen this bond. They did, however, enjoy the ecoprint activities and we plan to do similar activities with their classes in the Fall as they return to their neighbourhood school.
Reflections/Advice: I want to thank the NOIIE for their grant. The professional development around ecoprinting was very informative and will be put to good use next year as we help facilitate the students’ transitions back to their neighbourhood schools.
I think this activity would be useful in most classrooms, as many students could use this technique to connect to the land. Our group was just exceptionally connected already, and they became our teachers as we engaged in outdoor education. I would suggest to any teacher doing a similar project to study up on tannins and figure out which leaves and plants are rich in them to avoid some of the trial and error that we experienced at the beginning of our inquiry. Learning doesn’t have to take as much patience and time as we put in at the beginning.