Mckenna Wagner, 12, Taya Hleck, 10 and Riley Paugh, 6, helped plant a new indigenous garden at Forest Park Elementary School. TAMARA CUNNINGHAM/News Bulletin

Students celebrate new indigenous garden

Garden teaches students about traditional uses of local plants

Forest Park Elementary students put their green thumbs to the test building the school’s first indigenous garden.

The school celebrated its recently planted garden Friday, with an assembly, drumming and stinging nettle tea.

Students have been studying local flora, but got their hands dirty this week, filling beds with plants native to B.C. and traditionally used by First Nations people, like mint, Salal and wild strawberry.

Eventually, students will harvest plants and experience making things like tonics, teas and tools.

“One of the district’s goals right now is to have more of an aboriginal understanding and so our school collectively decided that this would be one way to show, or share, an aboriginal understanding,” said Stephanie Stephens, the teacher behind the project, noting the first step was to get the garden planted and for students to be aware the plants are so much more than just plants.

“The intention is that the students can continue to learn how aboriginal stories connect to the land, the connection between the plants and medicine and just the uses of them.”

Mckenna Wagner, 12, who helped plant peppermint and kinnikinnick, said the garden is good for the environment and her school.

“We don’t have a lot of things like this usually so I just feel like it’s something new for everybody to experience,” she said.

Taya Hleck, 10, said her favourite part is that the whole school came together for the project.

The garden got off the ground with help from a $4,450 grant from TD Friends of the Environment Foundation. As a second phase, the school also plans to build a vegetable garden.

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