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Learning Through the Land

At the heart of the Outdoor, Experiential, Ecological Education (OE3) Program is teaching and developing students’ appreciation for the outside world through meaningful outdoor experiences. Integrated with the First Peoples Principles of Learning, the OE3’s curriculum upholds the idea that “Learning is holistic, reflexive, reflective, experiential, and relational – It is focused on connectedness, on reciprocal relationships, and a sense of place.”

For Mr. James Willms, Director of Environment and Risk, ensuring students are building a relationship with the land and seeing the land through the eyes of the First Peoples is an essential part of the educational experience at Meadowridge.

“Indigenous Peoples have a special connection with the earth and all living things and it’s our responsibility to build this relationship with the land and to learn about, nurture, and take care of it, just as the First Peoples did and do,” says Mr. Willms. 

Junior Kindergarten students all the way to Grade 12 are taught to build a connection with nature, while incorporating Indigenous teachings. 

Elementary School students take on an exploratory approach to learning about the land, laying on the grass, appreciating the insects and animals surrounding us, learning about the plants that surround us and their traditional uses through teachings from Indigenous Knowledge Keepers.

Middle School students build on this appreciation for the land and dive into topics like “traditional and western ways of knowing.”

High School students explore Indigenous teachings through a range of outdoor activities like canoeing and fishing, and excursions to cities like Gibsons and Tofino to learn about the local First Nations Peoples.

These experiences influence students to become advocates and stewards of the land learning through Indigenous ways and knowledge and building an appreciation for our environment. 

Pictured: Grade 6 students with syrup, honourably harvested from trees in the North Forest.

How to Harvest Honourably

The Honourable Harvest is not a set of rules, not formally written down, but rather an Indigenous approach to life and how you act day-to-day when you encounter plants and take the many resources they have to offer. It is through these principles that Mrs. Banack guides her lessons. 

Ask permission of the ones whose lives you seek. Listen and abide by the answer.

Never take the first plant you see. Never take the last.

Harvest in a way that minimizes damage.

Take only what you need and leave some for others.

Use everything that you take.

Share it with others. 

Be grateful.

Reciprocate the gifts. 

Sustain the ones who sustain you, and the Earth will last longer.

The Honourable Harvest: Understanding the Generosity of our Natural Environment 

As an Educator for the past 24 years, Mrs. Stacy Banack has taught in Elementary, Middle, and High School at Meadowridge, always tying in the outdoors and the natural environment whenever possible.

Mrs. Banack could always be found sneaking in a gardening lesson to her daily instruction or taking her students outside for classes. 

When the opportunity arose, it only seemed fitting that she take on a new role at the school as the OE3 Coordinator. While facilitating and developing outdoor learning programs at the school, Mrs. Banack teaches with an emphasis on a First Peoples perspective, recognizing the importance of the land and the teachings that come along with each plant. Through the guiding principles of The Honourable Harvest, Mrs. Banack encourages this way of showing care for our environment. 

“I want to instill stewardship in the children. It’s our role to take care of the plants around us and to minimize the harm to them; respecting and being thankful for what they can give, when they can give, and ensuring there’s still more for the future. By informing the way we act through The Honourable Harvest, we gain an understanding of the generosity of these living beings.” 

After reading Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer (who is an Indigenous Author, Environmental Educator, and Plant Ecologist), Mrs. Banack came upon the teachings of the Honourable Harvest and knew this way of connecting with nature had to be shared.