Earth Day activities at schools

Earth Day activities at schools

Knowledge Keeper Ethel Thomas talks to A.L. Fortune students

From cleaning up beaches, to planting trees and bushes on school property, students in SD83 took part in various Earth Day activities on April 22. At some schools this day was also a time to “sew the seeds” of reconciliation, as trees were planted in memory of those children who did not return home to their families from Kamloops Residential School.

For example, at A.L. Fortune Secondary in Enderby reconciliation was also part of the Earth Day activities and tree planting. A.L. Fortune’s tree planting session included a talk by Knowledge Keeper Ethel Thomas, Splatsin Council member Leonard Edwards and some songs by the A.L Fortune traditional drummers!

At Carlin, on April 20, the staff and students planted 63 trees on the school grounds in memory of Secwepemc children and to recognize Earth Day 2022. This project connected students to the school grounds and provided them with an opportunity to ‘lend a hand’ to make the school site more attractive. Additionally, this project served to improve the biodiversity of the area, as well as provide future shade and a much needed sound and sight barrier from the Trans Canada Highway.

Barb LeBeau, Carlin’s Indigenous Education Worker, spearheaded the project and she, along with Stephanie Dumont (IEW). The tree species were carefully chosen for their value related to traditional use and for their adaptation to the local environment (Douglas Fir, Trembling Aspen, Ponderosa Pine, Lodgepole Pine, Paper Birch, Rocky Mt. Maple, and Choke Cherry).

Students, with support of the teacher librarian, Geri Ellis, learned about these plant species. Assemblies held to learn more about the project and the impact of tree planting, and understand the connections we all have to the Secwepemc history of this area. Elder John Jules, from the Shuswap Lake Band and Elder Virgina Woolridge were present at the assembly. John Jules spoke to the students about the history and connection of the Secwepemc people to the land and the work required to overcome the impact of residential schools. Virigna Woolridge participated in a drumming and singing session with a small group of Carlin students.

Molly Cooperman of WildBC was on site during during the prep work, planting and to help celebrate during the assembly. Barb Craven, from the BC Small Wetlands Association (which was the group that secured the funding for the trees to plant at many schools – more below), also played an enormous role in the planning and execution of this planting event. Reimer’s Farm donated a ‘Big Yellow Bag’ of soil, and Carlin parents helped out including sone family, Tim and Rhonda Witzke, supplying a mini-excavator.

Coming up on Thursday, April 28th, Salmon Arm West Elementary will hold a tree planting ceremony at the school’s Shannon Sharp Learning Circle. During the ceremony, students and special guests will come together to plant trees in recognition of the children who did not return from the Kamloops Residential School.

“We hope that our small act of truth and reconciliation helps create a natural learning space for students now and for generations to come,” comments school principal David Wellingham.

North Shuswap Elementary School in Celista got a jump on Earth Day as they planted 60 trees and shrubs in recognition on April 20. Aspen, birch and choke cherry trees were planted around an outdoor learning space. Check out this video of North Shuswap students planting their trees!

Over at Len Wood Middle the “Lorax” visited the students to educate and motivate as they planted an additional 170 trees at the Pleasant Valley Wetlands Heritage Park, which is located close to the school. The Len Wood students had planted 215 trees, all with an orange ribbon, at the Wetlands Heritage Park last fall in recognition of the children who did not make it home from residential school.

Clean up at Silver Creek Elementary

At Silver Creek Principal Kirsten Mazur reports to celebrate Earth Day and promote social responsibilities parents, students and staff picked rocks and branches, weeded the gardens, spread mulch and manure and picked up trash all over Silver Creek community and school yard. She thanked Hillside Dreams Dairy for the goat compost and all the parents who rolled up their sleeves to help us out.

Principal Jared King reports that students at South Canoe Outdoor Learning Program spent Earth Day at Canoe Beach. “Kids picked up trash, making this a beautiful place to play and learn. Big thanks to the City of Salmon Arm for opening up a bathroom for the day!” He said each student also received a seedling to take home and plant.

Along with the Earth Day activities at their school, some students from Salmon Arm Secondary’s leadership class also helped with a downtown clean-up event on April 23. The volunteers met at the Ross Street Plaza at 9 a.m. picked up garbage as well as washed and cleaned signs, benches, lamp posts, and the Ross Street Plaza mosaic.

A big focus this Earth Day was the tree planting project at 10 schools made possible primarily by the B.C. Small Wetlands Association (which obtained funding from Natural Resource Canada’s Two Billion Trees by 2030 Project). BCSWA supplies trees through Sagebrush Nursery in Oliver. BCSWA collaborates with SD83 Indigenous support workers and Secwepemc Elders to create Reconciliation in Action events that include ceremonies and education on the cultural uses of the trees, based on the traditional knowledge of Secwepemc Elder Dr. Mary Thomas. 

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See Global’s story about the A.L. Fortune tree planting here and Vernon Morning Star’s here.