School Name: Twain Sullivan Elementary
School District: SD#54 Bulkley Valley
Inquiry Team Members: Erin Williamson: email@example.com
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Intermediate (4-7)
Curricular Area(s): Applied Design, skills & Technology, Science, Social Studies
Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Experiential learning, Land, Nature or Place-based learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Engaging students in hands-on activities related to growing, harvesting and using sustainable/local and traditional First Nations plants.
Scanning: I noticed there was a noticeable lack of connection to usefulness of local plants and how to grow, harvest, process, preserve and utilize them using modern, traditional and First Nations methods. Will involving students in experiential learning opportunities related to identifying, growing, harvesting and using local plants improve students understanding of, respect for, and appreciation of the local environment, as well as empower students to grow, collect or use these plants for themselves and/or their families?
Focus: I chose this area for focus because our school/community and school district are surrounded by numerous plants that grow naturally in the wild, and have been used for hundreds to thousands of years by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples for food, medicine and various forms of technology. As part of this project, my ultimate goal is for students to identify and use, and pass on the knowledge of useful local plants.
Hunch: So many different forms of knowledge in our communities and schools come from sources or places so far away from where we live as a result of the internet and other forms of technology. A lot of reference materials are online and from other places in the world rather than our local community. Many plants that are also used as food sources in our local grocery stores are also from places far away. As a result, I believe many students have a very poor understanding of plants that grow, or can be grown, locally (right in their community) and the many different ways that they can be used.
New Professional Learning: Throughout this inquiry I talked to numerous different educators about planning and starting a school garden. I also sourced out many local books and papers on local plants that have been used as food, medicine and technology over the years. One specific paper I found that was very helpful listed almost 100 plants, their Wet’suwet’en name, and their most common uses.
Taking Action: Throughout the year, I took my class on plant walks to identify various different useful plants. On some of these walks we harvested some plants, including berries and rose hips, to harvest and utilize as tea and jelly. In the classroom we also started a tower garden to grow local herbs, spinach and lettuces, and used a dehydrator to preserve the herbs in order for students to take them home. Students planted beans in class to observe the process of growing and transplanting plants. In the spring, students harvested tree bark to make natural rope and used saplings to build travois for transport. Students also designed their own school garden within a set budget, fencing off from animals, and utilizing plants that could grow locally.
Checking: Overall, I think my overall goal of passing on plant knowledge to students had a good impact. All students experienced the process of growing a plant, harvesting plants and utilizing plants. Many students were able to identify plants in the local forest before the end of school (they buddied up with a younger grade to go on a useful plant hunt). Many students were able to make string or rope from inner bark or other materials. Students really began to appreciate the process of harvesting and preserving plants from our tower garden to be used at a later time at home (many wanted to take the dried herbs home to use). Students had a good knowledge of many of the food plants that could be grown outdoors in our community, which they demonstrated in their garden plans.
Reflections/Advice: This inquiry really helped me to delve into the process of immersing students in just how useful our local, natural environment can be. They demonstrated interest and excitement to try using new plants, as well as to try techniques to use plants in various different ways. In my next steps, I hope to continue planning and building a school garden to immerse students even more in the process of planting and growing useful plants within a school garden. The advice I would offer to other schools is to explore the natural environment near your schools, and learn to identify plants that have been used throughout history in so many different ways.