From left

Bowser Elementary students getting some culture outside

The learning centre will be the first of its kind in Qualicum School District 69

On a grassy bench at the back of the Bowser Elementary School grounds, students have painstakingly mapped out and marked a network of trails, a fire pit and a traditional aboriginal building.

But it’s not an archeological dig. It’s a look at the near future.

With students playing a key, hands-on role, Bowser Elementary has begun phase I of the outdoor Tulnuxw lelum Cultural Learning Space, which will be used to augment instruction in First Nations culture and environmental studies.

“We have such a wonderful yard,” said Laura Bonnor, a teacher who has taken on the project co-ordinator role. “We thought, why don’t we put it to use as an educational space, as well?”

The idea of the outdoor cultural learning centre was first kicked around at the school during the 2014-15 school year, following several school closures and a reconfiguration by School District 69 boosted the student population in Bowser.

Nothing came of the discussions that year, but Bonnor brought it back up when school began last September, and plans and funding have begun to fall into place in the last few months, she said.

The facility will be built in two phases, the school announced. Phase 1 will include a garden made up of indigenous plants, paths, and a central seating area with a fire pit. It is expected to be completed this spring and an opening/welcoming ceremony has been scheduled for May 25.

Phase 2 will feature a covered and partially walled building reflective of First Nations culture and history, Bonnor said.

“Traditionally, it was always that way,” said Carmen Forrest, First Nations Liaison for Bowser and Qualicum Beach elementary schools. “From elders teaching about edible and medicinal plants, to gathering and harvesting celebrations, it was aways done outdoors, that way.”

The learning centre will be the first of its kind in the district, if not on Vancouver Island. School District 69 last fall signed its third Enhanced Aboriginal Education Agreement last fall, and a revised curriculum coming to British Columbia schools in the next year mandates all students be taught about First Nations history and culture “in an empowering and respectful manner,” Bonnor said.

School officials believe the new outdoor centre at Bowser Elementary will enhance that instruction, with visits from elders and instruction in traditional plants with the plants right there on-site.

“It is wonderfully placed and timed, both in its relationship with the natural environment and with local First Nations,” Bowser principal Brian Nikula said. “And it’s perfectly suited for the new curriculum coming in.”

Even in the planning phase, students in teacher Dave MacVicar’s outdoor education program have already been learning lessons, from horticultural to use of hand- and garden tools, measuring and mapping and collaboration.

“They have important roles to play,” said Bonnor. “It’s empowering.”

When the digging comes, they will be involved in arranging and planting the native species.

Dorian Kisinger, a Grade 6 student and graphic artist, has teamed with a classmate to draw a pencil sketch of what the finished project will look like.

“I just asked if I could work on the blueprints for the building with a friend of mine,” said Kisinger. “The outdoor education class started designing it, so we did that. I’m hoping to help with the building. I love building.”

Bonnor has begun lining up funding for the project, including a $3,000 donation from the TD Bank Friends of the Environment Foundation and additional contributions from the Aboriginal Education Department and the province. Vancouver Island University teaching students Elisa Tulli and Lindsay Mitchell have held bake sales and other fundraisers, and have already contributed a wheelbarrow and gardening gloves.

“I just put some information on the project up on our (school) blog, and we’ve already got donations from two people after they saw it,” said Nikula.

“It’s getting a lot of support from the community.”

And Bonnor said she expects Tulnuxw lelum to get just as much use from that community.

“It’ll be an adventure for us, and the kids have been looking forward to it,” Bonnor said. “But it’s something the whole community can use. It won’t be locked up.”

Just Posted

Parksville man ‘parks’ horse during liquor store pit stop

As long as animal wasn’t jaywalking, no problem, says city official

Parksville roundtable highlights need for affordable housing, recreation

Mayor Ed Mayne held facilitated event in January to hear visions for city, council

RDN to form new group to replace Northern committees

Recreation commissioners disappointed with the decision

Second delivery of building units for 222 Corfield in Parksville arrives March 21

Vehicles should expect intermittent single-lane alternating traffic

Public input sought on proposed cannabis retail store in Coombs

Application to be reviewed by Regional District of Nanaimo

VIDEO: Can you believe it? This B.C. hill pulls cars backwards up a slope

Sir Isaac Newton had clearly never been to this Vernon anomaly when he discovered gravity

Paramedic staff shortage at critical level: B.C. union

A number of units were out of service due to lack of staffing in Lower Mainland, union says

B.C. lottery winner being sued by Surrey co-workers

They claim he owes them $200,000 each, in a lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver

BIG READ: The two sides of the Strait of Georgia roe herring fishery

The case for the Strait of Georgia roe herring fishery Comox fisherman,… Continue reading

Fraser Health under fire again for taxiing homeless man from Langley to Hope

Patient sent to Hope shelter because a spot in the man’s home community couldn’t be located

Dead sea lion discovered on Hornby Island shoreline

Reports indicate animal was shot in the head

Celina Caesar-Chavannes quits Liberal caucus, sits as independent MP

The Whitby, Ont., MP has been a vocal supporter of Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott

Island SPCA overwhelmed by 45 cats taken from Comox Valley property

Many of the cats will be transferred to branches in Nanaimo and Victoria

Woman punched on the sidelines of B.C. soccer game

Both involved were watching the U21 game in West Vancouver from the sidelines when things got heated

Most Read