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Thank you everyone who attended this year’s Fresh Roots Science Literacy Week event! Roots of Change was a youth workshop in collaboration with CERBC and Algonquin educator and carver, Dave Robinson – head over to this link for the full event information and guest bios. For those who couldn’t make it out, check out our summary of what happened.

Introduction

The workshop took place at two of Fresh Roots Vancouver schoolyard farm sites – September 21 at David Thompson Secondary and September 23 at Vancouver Technical Secondary. Despite the weather forecasted for the week was going to the usual Vancouver rain, the unexpected sun served as a picture perfect backdrop against the schoolyard farms. Students came from near and far for the event. For those that attended the host school of David Thompson and Van Tech, it meant finding ways to pass the time between the school bell and the start of the event at 4:00 PM. For others, they quickly travelled across the city to make it to the workshop’s location, including youth from Lord Byng Secondary, Windermere Secondary, and even Waverley Elementary. Regardless of where each person was coming from, everyone was welcomed with the warm hug of nettle tea, crafted from Fresh Roots’ recently completed tea garden.

We had the honour and privilege to have elder and knowledge keeper, Shane Pointe, who also was the workshop guest Dave Robinson’s uncle, to lead us in a land acknowledgement to start the event. At Fresh Roots, we acknowledge that we work on this land that is not ours; our schoolyard farms are on the ancestral and unceded homelands of the sc̓əwaθən məsteyəxʷ (Tsawwassen), kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem), q̓íc̓əy̓ (Katzie), stó:lō (Sto:lo), xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh), qiqéyt (Qayqayt), and sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) Coast Salish peoples. We learned and we listened as Shane passed on the stories of the land to us passed on to him from his elders – the changes to the land and how it was used, what was lost over time, and hope for the future. He ended by sharing two simple words of wisdom to the youth participants – have fun.

Cedar Carving with Dave Robinson

And ‘have fun’ we did. Student participants cycled through three activities, engaging in this year’s Science Literacy Weeks’s theme – C is for Climate. For the first activity, Dave Robinson shared with the youth one of his carving projects – a puzzle forged from a thousand-year-old yellow cedar. Prompted by his professor in the Indigenous Teacher Education Program at UBC, he designed this mathematical piece after the medicine wheel, with the cardinal directions carefully etched out to act as a compass for the new adventure we were about to take.

We learned that we were not the first to travellers to encounter this challenge. From classes of elementary students to stumping a team of engineers, the rules were simple. From memory, we were to take turns either placing a new block or removing one that was out of place, which was definitely more simple than it proved to be. Eventually, we completed the impossible but of course, not without many hints from Dave Robinson. To the brave souls that are reading this and happen cross paths with this labyrinth, here is what we learned about the puzzle (without spoiling the fun) and really, about being good stewards of our land:

  1.  We need to work together. To bring change, we need to communicate, share, and listen to each other’s perspectives to move forward in the right direction. Everyone has a part to play, whether you are putting a piece down or correcting another, you have influence.
  2.  To put the solution together, we need to take the time to understand the marks of the land that existed long before you. They hold the leading lines for us to see the whole picture.
  3. Finally, some pieces are easier to place than others. Start with what’s easy and move your way up. Pay attention to your perspective – it may seem right until you flip it over. You could be looking at the wrong side!

Regenerative Agriculture with Fresh Roots

In the second activity, Fresh Roots guided the youth to explore regenerative agriculture. In short, regenerative practices, in comparison to industrial practices, view through the lens of the ecosystem lens, where we move from a consumer to a producer perspective to bring lasting positive change. Regenerative agriculture aims to work together with existing biotic and abiotic features of the land, rather than only taking from the land, which will in turn reduce our harmful contributions and help us work towards improvements in climate change.

Our journey started by taking a walk around the schoolyard farm. Youth were immersed in their senses and curiosity as they made notes on colours, shapes, textures, and taste of the plants found in the garden beds. For some youth, they harvested and tried rhubarb, kale, even flowers for the first time! For others, it was their first time on an urban farm let alone a schoolyard farm. Youth made notes on diversity that exists in a regenerative system, from plants to insects that can be found thriving in the ecosystem.

We then took the time to visualize the differences between regenerative agriculture to industrial agriculture. Here are some things we came up with together:

  • Regenerative farms support native species, including insects like bees and other pollinators by allowing plants to flower
  • Regenerative farms find ways to improve the soil through compositing and decomposers
  • Regenerative farms reduce the amount of pollutants added to system by limiting large tractors and industrial equipment that produce heavy pollution

What other differences do you see?

Letter Writing with CERBC

The final activity involved the student leaders of CERBC empowering their peers to use their voice to bring about change to climate change. Realizing the limited and lack of climate education in schools, they turned to the power of storytelling to start the conversation. Youth were asked to reflect on questions:

  1. What is your experience with climate change? How have you been affected? What observations do you notice?
  2. How have you been thinking about climate change lately? What have you heard recently?
  3. What would a better world look like to you?

As more stories and letters get written, the hope is that more people, including politicians and policy makers, will take move towards making climate change education more accessible in schools and bring change in the way we view and approach climate change as a society.

Access CERBC’s letter writing toolkit here.

Open Letter to the BC Government

After a summer of heatwaves and wildfires, we at Fresh Roots and 200 other organizations representing 1 million+ British Columbians have come together to call on Premier Horgan and the BC government to get serious about the climate emergency. Check out the links below to learn more:

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