By Luke Smeaton, Manager of Energy and Sustainability and Meryn Corkery, Vancouver Area Community Animator, Farm to School BC
The Coast Salish Gardens Program seeks to bring native plant and traditional food knowledge into the minds, hearts, and bellies of children and youth by developing native plant gardens and outdoor spaces on school grounds.
In early 2022, Farm to School BC and the Coast Salish Native Plant Nursery at Maplewood Flats collaborated to both support six North Vancouver schools develop garden spaces and develop curriculum material to encourage their use as teaching tools.
Participating schools included Norgate Xwemélch'stn Community Elementary, Sherwood Park Elementary, Carson Graham Secondary and Windsor Secondary, as well as Tsleil-Waututh Nation siʔáḿθɘt School and Capilano Littlest Ones School - Xwemélch'stn Etsimxwawtxw.
Each school developed their own unique approach, with many creating or adding to native plant gardens, growing foods to gift to community members, learning more about traditional and contemporary uses of native plants, and connecting more to the land around their school.
Windsor Secondary students make 'seed nuggets' using a wildflower blend that features all native plants from Maplewood Flats Coast Salish Nursery.
The program aims to go beyond simply building gardens, by providing professional development opportunities for staff and building connections between educators and community partners.
As the program continues into 2023, participants will work towards developing native plant profiles and signage featuring Sḵwx̱wú7mesh sníchim and hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓, as well as an online ethnobotany resource hub for schools to access.
The Coast Salish Gardens Program is a partnership between Farm to School BC (administered by Public Health Association of BC) and Maplewood Flats (an initiative of the Wild Bird Trust of BC). This project is supported by the BC Ministry of Health and BC Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Vancity, and the TD Friends of the Environment Fund.