Tuesday 21 May 2024

CFE Day 6: Workshop at Norma Rose Point Elementary School!

Today we did a workshop with Grade 3s at Norma Rose Point Elementary on UBC Campus! It was very different teaching a group of younger kids after being on a 10-week practicum teaching secondary. The kids were very kind and very welcoming! We first got to the location and wandered a bit of the school. It was very open and had a lot of natural light coming in which was great even on this rainy day.

My first impressions was that there were a lot of positive-reinforcement signs around which I really loved! It brought a sense of community and this interesting "Periodic Table of Black Canadian History" really reinforced that sense of belonging in the school. As a science TC, I thought it was really interesting how the school brought together science and history and arranged the different historical names in a similar fashion to the periodic table. It was really awesome to see and I would definitely love to do this with my students some time, specifically for BIPOC scientists!

We then got together to discuss our game plan on the activities we would be doing with the kids. Lisa let us set up shop in her office and gave us a visual map of the raingarden which was quite larger in person than I imagined! The students came up with the really fun names for the different plants that are labeled on the map and we were told that right by the entrance was a humming bird's nest which we didn't get to see due to the heavy rain.

One thing that I really enjoyed about the raingarden is that there are multiple signs around the fence that tell us how the raingarden work as well as a reminder that we still are on unceded territory. The sign pays tribute to the First Peoples Principles of Learning about the raingarden and the importance of water. Rain that falls from the sky will land on the school roof top, as well as draining from the nearby roads which have a lot of contaminants. This raingarden helps to filter out all of the contaminants in a natural way using plants and the groundwater aquifers which will eventually be recharged. This clean water will then be used for either plant growth, or will flow back into different bodies of waters such as rivers or oceans. Ultimately, water flows in a cycle and through natural ways such as the raingarden, we can help limit our human impact on the delicate cycle that all living things depend on.

While walking through the raingarden (which was like walking through a jungle!), I reflected back at my practicum school where we also had a raingarden but its design was quite different. It reminded me back the other day when we visited the Nitobe Garden and had to think about the question: What is a garden? Even though both my practicum school and Norma Rose Point have raingardens, I've come to realize that a "garden" is quite an abstract term and it can look and mean different things. The two raingardens, although serving the same purpose, look and have different fauna and flora which goes to show that not all ecosystems are the same!

As we got deeper into the raingarden, we found some burlap lying on the ground along with moss surrounding it. The burlap helps promote the growth of moss by keeping in the moisture, and in turn, the moss will help filter out contaminants from the water. We then ventured further down a little and saw where the water would eventually flow out.

We then met with the students  and got them into groups. They answered questions very well and braved the pouring rain as we tracked through the raingarden. Some of the students had already been in the raingarden before during the spring time when it was dry, so this was a really unique experience for them (and myself) to see how the water fell from the sky and flowed into their school raingarden. They were very receptive and eager to answering questions. They really took care of where they were stepping as we walked and were very gentle when they picked some of the leaves and flowers to take back to the class for our flower pounding and leaf rubbing activity. 

Back indoors, we separated the kids into different groups: one to listen to an Indigenous story of the humming bird, and another group to do the flower pounding and leaf rubbing activity (which eventually all of the students were able to do). I was helping out with the flower pounding and leaf rubbing group, which I observed that a lot of the kids really enjoyed arts and crafts! When showing the students the different parts of the leaf, their answers were so thoughtful and even while holding their own leaves and flowers, they took gentle care making observations. Most of the students started with the leaf rubbing activity before moving onto the flower pounding. They had a lot of fun using those hammers to make their prints!

Below is some student work from the activity: 

Great job Norma Rose Point Elementary and thank you for having us! We hope you learned a lot.

-Lorilie C.

Friday 17 May 2024

Orchard Garden Day 5: Meditative Wanderings and Pollinator Blooms

A lovely, sunny conclusion to our first week at the garden.
We started the day with a meditative wandering led by Nicolas. He explained it as a form of active meditation, allowing us to take in the space around us with no particular purpose, but also connect with ourselves as part of nature: observing, not controlling; watching, not judging.

I strolled around the whole garden area, pausing to watch things more closely, like the cotton coming off the trees in the sunshine, looking like snow. Several of us noticed the beauty of the new growth on the trees and bushes: soft, light green spruce needles, red and shiny leaves on some of the deciduous trees representing all the new life springing up at this time of year.

Coming back together after a very grounding fifteen minutes, we discussed our experiences and reflected on how humans fit into nature: we are just another part of the natural world, but it can be difficult to really feel that way when we see the impact we are having on the world.

During our wanders, some of us felt that all our thoughts melted away as we focused on the nature around us, while others were reminded of their experiences and emotions from the past. It felt really profound to begin the day in this way, and it was a really special way to connect with the world around us and share with each other.

We continued our day making plans for our morning at Norma Rose Point School next week. We will be leading grade 3 students through activities connected to the rain garden on their school property. Anticipating a rainy, cool morning, we discussed our plans for Tuesday and coordinated the supplies we would need.

I really enjoyed the process of our discussion today, brainstorming collectively and co-creating our activities. Something that really stuck with me during practicum is how isolated we can all become as teachers, teaching our separate classes in our separate classrooms: the opportunities for collaboration are more limited than I would like, and it’s really those moments that I feel most creative and effective with my planning. Just being in the garden feels like it opens up those opportunities, taking down those walls of separation. I’m looking forward to our activities on Tuesday and seeing how I can take that same idea of truly collaborative teaching into my future practice.

Our afternoon involved more of our favourite: weeding the buttercups! This time, they were vacated to make room for some pollinator-friendly wild flowers. This will hopefully produce blooms for nearly 8 months of the year, providing important food sources for all our little friends in the garden. We have become a truly efficient team this week, surprising ourselves with how much ground we can cover in an afternoon.

All in all, this was a wonderful first week in the garden. I feel very lucky to be here and am appreciating every moment outdoors, hands in the dirt and sun on my face - even if it means a LOT of sunscreen. This week has reminded me just how important it is to slow down - and I hope to bring more of those slow, reflective moments into my classroom and the rest of my life.

Thursday 16 May 2024

Orchard Garden Day 4: Fibonacci, Mason Bees, More Weeds, Oh My!

Every day spent in the garden evokes feelings of peace, calm, and gratitude. Today, I felt particularly grateful for what we shared, learned, and conquered together.

To begin the day, we each returned to our "sit spots", and we were given a prompt to reflect on, while we enjoyed the space. Dr. Susan Gerofsky introduced us to Fibonacci poems, which are multiple-line poems where the number of syllables in each line corresponds to a number in the Fibonacci sequence (i.e., 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8... and so on), similar to Haikus which have a syllable pattern of 5-7-5. We were invited to create our own Fibonacci poems while in our sit spots, gaining inspiration from what we sensed around us. I warmly welcome any opportunity to enjoy my sit spot; I thoroughly enjoy immersing in nature and practicing the art of observation. I find the sights, smells, sounds, sensations all very enveloping and filling for the soul. So, during my time in my sit spot I happily came up with three novice Fibonacci poems, which I will share here, along with two of the views I have from my sit spot.

At Ease.
Thank you Mother Earth.
Falling in love with my sit spot.

Nature's symphony.
Peaceful composition of life.

in all her beauty.
I bow to her majesty, poised.

We all eventually shared our poems with each other, which I appreciated very much. There is something so beautiful about sitting in the garden together, and sharing our experiences and perspectives with one another through poetry. Similarly to when we shared our soundscapes, this provided a moment of vulnerability, and everyone was so welcoming, supportive, and respectful. I enjoyed listening to everyone's poems and their expression of the feelings inspired from their sit spots. 

We learned that Fibonacci poems can also be designed in a variety of ways: they can increase then decrease in syllables (1-1-2-3-5-8-5-3-2-1-1), they can continue up to 13 or 21 syllables, and they can be structured as continued phrases or individual words. The possibilities are endless :)

Dr. Susan also shared a connection between Fibonacci numbers and bees, which was a wonderful way to connect the information shared from our special guest speaker today (which I will share more about).

We learned that male honeybees are clones of a female bee; they are produced from unfertilized eggs. Therefore, they only have one parent, their mother. Female honeybees, however, are produced from fertilized eggs, and therefore have two parents: a mother and a father. With this understanding of bees and their genealogy, we can represent each generation of honeybees with a Fibonacci number! For example, the generation 0 honeybee (male) is only 1 bee (Fibonacci number 1). The generation 1 honeybee would be its parents, which is only 1 mother (Fibonacci number 1). Generation 2 includes 2 bees because the female bee is produced from both a mother bee and father bee (Fibonacci number 2) and so on. 

This was a wonderful way to see how the Fibonacci numbers connect with honeybees!

We were also very fortunate to have Dr. Mary K. Bryson with us today as a special guest speaker, to share her knowledge of Mason Bees!

WOW! I am so impressed and intrigued by Mason Bees! Dr. Mary taught us that Mason Bees are superb pollinators. In fact, she shared with us that they are 100x more efficient as pollinators than honeybees and pollinate 95% of the flowers they visit (compared to honeybees which only pollinate 5%)! Incredible! It turns out they are also very simple to raise and are hazard-free because they are highly unlikely to sting (and their stinger has no barb!). This is fantastic news, because this means Mason Bees would be a wonderful project in a school setting or home setting! 
Mason Bees are also Indigenous bees, and are so important in the environment. With pollinators like Mason Bees, plants can have successful fertilization, seed development, and fruit production (if they bear fruit).

Dr. Mary identified some key tips and techniques to raising Mason Bees, including using reeds as a medium for eggs and cocoons, when and how cocoons should be harvested, and where we can find more information about getting started!

For example, she shared with us that West Coast 
Seeds has the best deal on Mason Bee cocoons, Crown Bees sells the best Mason Bee houses, and there are more wonderful resources on the Crown Bees website!


Thank you so much Dr. Mary. I speak for the whole group when I say we enjoyed your time with us so much, and we value what you taught us. I also very much appreciate the handouts you provided! I am certainly a visual learner and like to take notes, so I loved the opportunity to refer to the information and write extra bits as well! 

After lunch, we conquered some more weeds in the garden! Conquered may be a bit of an aggressive term, perhaps we "tamed" the weeds (or volunteers, if you will), so that new crops could have an opportunity to thrive in the garden. We also surrounded each garden bed with wood pieces to create a frame around the future crops (and a border to prevent sneaky weeds from overwhelming the crops). Here is what the garden beds looked like before.

And here is what the garden beds looked like after.

Can you even believe they were the same areas?! 😱
Perhaps this warrants an acknowledgement of "conquering" after all? 😏

To say the least, we were very proud of what we had achieved together. Over the last few days, we have collectively developed and refined our weeding techniques and worked together in such supportive ways to become more and more efficient and productive. Shoutout to the Guardian of the Garden (Madi) for keeping fun vibes in our work party with 2000s tunes, too! With the sun peaking through the clouds, music playing, soil in our shoes, smiles on our faces, we had a fabulous afternoon. We certainly felt accomplished. In fact, here is a representation of some of our shared feelings as we worked on the garden beds (Shoutout to Ian!) :

Perhaps some frustration with some stubborn roots 
(ahem buttercups you know who you are...) and prickly thistle.

Perhaps some uncertainty if we'd get the job done 
(well, you saw the before photos!!).

Feeling triumphant in the end! Woohoo!

Today, I learned a variety of applications in the classroom: raising Mason Bees, Fibonacci poems, and the the power of teamwork and skill development. Every day brings a new lesson and meaning to the Orchard Garden, and I continue to feel so much gratitude for being a part of this Community Field Experience.

To close, I share this quote from Alfred Austin, "The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul."

I am certainly feeling very "full" after today's experiences. 🙏💚

~Nicole Y.

Some more Nitobe background

Thanks, everyone, for the beautiful and thoughtful posts so far!

Here’s the link to the background information about the garden: https://botanicalgarden.ubc.ca/files/2015/12/nitobe-memorial-garden-map.pdf

And here’s the link to the article by renowned curriculum scholar Ted (Tetsuo) Aoki about the bridge in Nitobe by the irises: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1r2omSvxKTuoBduB7BV9dPPEQwSXGMQ4Z/view?usp=drivesdk

Orchard Garden Day 3: We Begin This Journey as Children - Nitobe Garden

To Set the Scene:


We met at Nitobe memorial garden to start the day. Walking through the pleasant atmosphere of the Memorial Gardens was mesmerizing. Susan began with the tour for all of us, asking, ‘what makes something a garden’, and stating ‘we begin this journey as children’. Like an allegory for life the tour around the space you look the same nurturing sense of growth and understanding with which one could feel when first experiences the wonders of the world around them. The lush foliage let teardrops of light passed through dotting the ground with shade and piercing beams of light falling like raindrops on the gravel path. A bald eagle leapt forth from seemingly nowhere; breathtaking and beautiful our time was immediately inaugurated with amazement. Cool breeze and the soft shade kept us alleviated from much of the sun which we had been feeling the past couple days. Traveling through we noticed many treasures high and low which set our curiosity ablaze.



Physical structures that helped the group lean into the ideas and intention of the space were the mother and father statue. The mother statue sitting at the centre of the main loop in the garden is viewable from all points and reminiscent of the maternal caring watchful eye which still lets us wander and grow as we moved along there was a structure commemorating Inazo Nitobe. “Apostle of Goodwill Among Nations” titled a structure with Zodiac animals in chronological order surrounding the upper portion. As we continue circling around paths diverge offering easy and more difficult routes and although the hill to climb may present more of a challenge there are many more opportunities for wonder along the way (a waterfall, plants… everything around us was delicate and made the eyes hunger for more to observe). Moving towards the 11-plank "early marriage" bridge, we all had a giggle at the bridge's expense. Looking forwards as we moved to a beatiful swampy portion of the garden. We moved around the space, being led to the Tea House and Roji after having a dialogue on how we encapsulate spaces and what their purposes and learning opportunities can be. We looked around and analyzed the structures both constructed and grown, and then moved to the front of the garden to speak more.



After lunch, we relocated to the UBC greenhouse located next to Orchard Commons. The hot humid air was like walking through a steel wall, but immediately refreshing as the thick air and floating scent of greenery overtook my nostrils. Making our way towards the center of the greenhouse we gawked at the size and colour of ripe fruit, vibrant foliage, and soft textures of the plants. Taking plants that Madi had cultivated week(s) prior, we repotted some, moved others outside, and brought others to plant. There was a lovely cat in the greenhouse too, very soft, friendly, gentle (11/10 Kitty, would pat again).




Back to the garden we made haste, many Scallions and Beets in tow. Little living babies which we sought to nurture in the dark, rich, vitalizing soil. With some further weeding to make space in the beds, we managed to get most all of the healthy little fellers tucked into the dirt. With a sprinkling of carbon, we were all set to let the elements take hold.



Pretty sweet day I’d say!


Theory Incarnate:


What is a garden? What makes a space a garden? Plants. Intention. Use. Maybe I was just tired, but I am not sure if we settle on a concrete definition. What a garden for learning can be is any space you grow things and use them for learning. Whether a small planter box, or a lush food forest, the space is harnessed for a reciprocal relationship of benefit whether that be nourishment (the plants eating sunlight, water, minerals, and us parts of them) or growth (fundamentally physical, whether it be where neurons connect as synapses fire or physical change and growth). 


What is overlooked in a space? I am not sure, I overlooked it. But we all see different things. Like a green space, learning environment’s nuances or glaring facts can be overlooked just the same. With melding and separate ideas, ideologies, and identities, we as educators need to understand that our idea of situation’s reality can never be a fully formed understanding. There is no such thing as objectivity, but coming to know better about a person, place, etc. – and adapting to that – is fundamental for improving our pedagogy. Leaning on others for this is great.


Fundamental for creating a garden for learning is knowing how to garden. Today was part of that (as will many others). What we can do with the space which we have is important, and so we planted our scallions and beets in the smaller plot which Sally cleared yesterday. Working as a team and gaining knowledge on the systems in play which govern our ability to grow is essential, today uncovered more of that knowledge baked into our beings. 


Metaphor or not, one learns a lot.


Other Thinks:


One interesting thing that prodded at my eyeballs was the construction of the spaces around us. This is our garden plot and nitobe. I feel like in Technology Education (my teachable), much of the wonder of the materials we used can be torn from us. A table is just to write on or eat. A chair is for sitting. That fork you eat with and pencil you write with, well they are just tools. Stop asking questions, keep consuming the food, keep writing that essay. Produce, consume, repeat. Part of the breaking of chains (as it were) of the systems which bind us is wonder. To be inspired and curious, harnessing inspiration rather than influence, getting into the nitty gritty and loving every moment of it. That is what joy brings true. Understanding and being able to appreciate more of the world around us is essential for holistic practices of presence in a space (mental of physical). Being self-sufficient and understanding the massive amount of tiny factors which come together to form something as simple as an unassuming as a chair or pencil gives us context of what we are engaging with, the many reasons why we engage, and how. 


Nitobe gardens reveals more of that to me, that wonder. Seeing how the tea house was constructed with stones pounded into the foundation and supporting beams cut to fit the rocks, fitting the structure to the environment, rather than the other way around; that was magic. Seeing the same trees which were used to construct the space, rooted deply living in the garden, breathing through their massive lungs and soaking in water through their veins stretching to the sky, all culminating in rich brown bark and beautiful leaves, flowers, fruit, and more. It was nice. It was very nice to feel like a child, eyes darting over new discoveries. And being flush with excitement of that is exciting.


Technology is not just computers, and I don’t think that a computer even is technology. Technology is what made that thing, a stacking of ideas and handed down information. A practice, a language, a way of using the tool, not the tool itself. Truly understanding how, really getting into a process and finding your path through it instead of knowledge being handed to you. Being able to teach others to see and using the knowledge of a countless number of people before me to do that. Like a tree who many years later bears fruit for future generations. Reaching into the past, and by doing so reaching into the future to spur inspiration and understanding in the present.

 It’s essential for growth.


Tuesday 14 May 2024

CFE - Secondary TCs in the Orchard Garden Day 2: The Sounds of the Garden!

Today was exciting!

We met up again for a bright and partially cloudy day, ready to learn and enjoy the outdoors. There was lots of construction going on behind the garden but regardless, the living organisms (including us!) enjoyed being there.

We spent the first part of the morning learning about weaving with Dandelions which we then went to pick the stems of to let them dry for the next day. I learned a lot about different invasive species and how the term "weed" is very subjective. Did you know, Dandelions were brought over from Europe as a food crop? They're high in nutrition (including Vitamin A,B,C,D and minerals such as K and Zinc) and can be used for teas or a coffee substitute!

I'm very excited to learn more about weaving with dandelions because my students during long practicum would always weave me flower crowns when we went outside.

We were then greeted by some lovely humming birds which I've never seen before! They were calling out to each other and doing dive bombs in front of us as if they were showing off their skills. One eventually landed on a tree nearby and watched over us.

We then spent the rest of the morning at our "sit spots" creating a visual that represents what we heard around us (A Soundscape).

 After sharing, we all decided to become musicians and created a lovely musical number. I'd call it, "The Sounds of the Garden": https://drive.google.com/file/d/1GSYA8u25Forf0VQFwdVhl-Uh70cqaZPk/view?usp=sharing

The Soundscape activity was very memorable and it helped me build on my observation skills. As a student learning to become a science teacher, I can definitely use this with my own classroom in the future to help build students' observation skills which is to have not only for experiments but to continue to spark curiosity. I Being outdoors and listening to the sounds of nature and seeing what is around you is something kids don't often do nowadays. By teaching them something like this, I think they can come to appreciate more what is around them. I can also see myself using this activity to teach my students a lesson on soundwaves in the physics unit or with an Environmental Science class while doing a field study outdoors. There are also Apps such as "Merlin Bird ID" that can be used to identify bird calls which I think would be really fun to do with a class studying animal behaviour!

This is also a great activity to wind down and check in with yourself! 

During lunch, we decided to go exploring around the Empress tree and found some pollinators doing doing their duties.  

Eventually, we got to work and continued pulling out the weeds that were taking over the garden. Great job team!