Youth Led Native Garden at Coquitlam Heritage

By Jaimie Rosenwirth, Suwa’lkh Lead

This spring for Science Odyssey, we partnered with Coquitlam Heritage at Mackin House. Check out the video below!

We worked with the Suwa’lkh School leadership class to set up a native plant garden at Mackin House near their rose garden. We started by taking a couple of visits to observe the space before planning out the plants. From there, the youth worked out a plan by asking questions to Fresh Roots as well as Mackin House. Once they had the answers, they had decided from the plants we had available to onsite from the native plant nursery and set out making maps of where they thought the plants would best be. We then set up a morning to go and put in the work to put their plan into action.

Through this opportunity, the youth had a great time and they put their teamwork skills to the test. It took them a minute to get the flow of things, but once everyone knew what they were doing, things moved along well. After that morning to plant, the youth had a couple of visits to check on how things were transplanted. We lost one plant so we replanted another one. They also watered a couple of times before the end of the school year. I hope to take the youth back in the fall for a visit to check on things.

Thank you Coquitlam Heritage, Science Odyssey, and NSERC for creating spaces for youth to grow and engage in the science and community!


Suwa’lkh Leadership Class Reflections

By Jaimie Rosenwirth, Suwa’lkh Environmental Education Program Lead

The students at Suwa’lkh have a leadership class, during that class they are working in the garden once/twice a week. I have asked them to write about what they are enjoying and what they hope to see or continue while they are out in the garden. 

One of the recurring themes was more flowers. This is something that I would love to see as well. I want to see an increase of bees and ladybugs out there. Those are both beneficial for us. Pollinating and helping us with the aphids. One of the students has asked to release caterpillars. Getting to see the life cycle of the caterpillar to a butterfly seems like it could be interesting.

The youth have shared that they enjoy eating things out in the garden. I want to be able to keep growing produce that they are able to eat out in the field. Carrots and tomatoes are their favorites to eat out there. I would love for them to be able to just go out and try new things when they would like to. One of the students has helped to harvest, clean, bundle, sell at market, as well as eat beets from the garden. They have made and or helped eat roasted beets, beet salad and beet chocolate cake. 

The orchard is a place where they are able to try new fruit on breaks and when they are finished with school. The autumn olives and raspberries are some of their favorites to eat. 

It seems like the youth all agree that they like to see the bugs/insects as well as the birds while they are in the garden. We will see how they feel about the bugs once we are able to see more of them in the spring.


2022 Food Summit Reflections

By Jaimie Rosenwirth, Suwa’lkh Environmental Education Program Lead

Back in September, I had the opportunity to go to the Canadian Food Centres Canada’s (CFCC) Food Summit, the first one since the pandemic started. With the help of a bursary, I was in Toronto for four days and met members of the Knowledge Sharing Circle that I am a part of, as well as other people who are involved in Community Food Centres (CFCs) and Good Food Organizations (GFOs) across Canada. There were about 300 attendees in total who came together to connect, learn, and engage in ways to support food security in their communities.

The day before the Summit, I went on a tour of Black Creek Farms and met up with my circle members. As I was on my way to check-in in the morning, I ran into one of the circle members in the elevator. We quickly began talking and stayed with each other throughout the conference. The tour of Black Creek Farms lasted about an hour and a half. I took in lots of ideas from what they are doing, as well as just learning more about indigenous ways. There were so many questions being asked by everyone that we were unable to complete the tour, which was amazing to see – I would have loved to spend more time there. As a group, we helped harvest beans for their weekly veggie stand and veggie box pick up. Going on this trip meant I would be missing that week’s harvest day back home, so I was glad to be able to help harvest at least for a short 5 minutes (I may have had a snack of a bean or two as well). After the tour, we arrived back on the school bus and headed to Evergreen Brick Works to have lunch and meet as a circle. Lunch was delicious, and we ended up sitting with a few more members from the circle who were also on the tour of the farm.

Meeting as a circle was amazing. We did some ice breaker games, introduced ourselves to the land, did a forest meditation, and of course, just had time to chat with one another. One member I connected with is from Iqaluit and we were able to talk about the north and traditions. As someone who is Inuit, it was amazing to have the opportunity to talk with her and hope that I can continue to stay in touch with her as she also knows of my auntie from Rankin Inlet. I was also able to see how the qulliq (a traditional oil lamp) was lit. That was very special because my grandma would talk about it but does not have one to show to us. It was an honour to have elder Monica light it for us using the traditional materials.

During the two days of the Summit, my mind was so full of amazing words from so many speakers and elders. At Fresh Roots, I am usually the one to take photos of everything but during the event, I think I took less than ten photos. One memorable experience was going on a water walk with Dr. Tasha Beeds. I was very honoured to be able to join that ceremony. I also was able to sit in on quite a few sessions and learned so many things. I am bringing back ideas to share with the youth at Suwa’lkh and ideas that I want to see incorporated on the farm and in our programming. For example, one thing that I really want to try is to have soil samples and look at them through a microscope so that we can observe all the living organisms in there and so that the youth can see there is more to soil than they may think.

It seemed to be that as the time for me to leave and make my flight home drew near, I was in the process of making great connections with others. I truly wished I was able to stay longer to create more lasting connections and exchange more contact information. I hope that one day, I will have another opportunity to attend the Food Summit again, reconnecting with those who I have met this year and making new friends in the next one.


Making Cedar Bundles at Suwa’lkh

By Jaimie Rosenwirth, Suwa’lkh Environmental Education Program Lead

How is cedar used? What is the meaning of cedar? These questions will be answered while you read through this post. We will also be talking about the four sacred medicines, which you can read more about HERE.

Collecting Cedar from the Healing Forest

When clearing pathways in the Healing Forest, the Leadership students and myself found quite a few branches of cedar that had fallen due to wind. Instead of adding the branches to our compost pile, we thought we could save the cedar and bundle it for use. When we had brought the bundles inside, we cut the branches in order to use them in a bundle. I cut the branches smaller and worked to bundle them all with the students and Tash Pellatt, one of the teachers at Suwa’lkh School from from Shuswap’s Dog Creek Nation who is passionate about infusing First Nations teachings in student learning and healing.

The thing about cedar is that if you are in need of it, you can cut a couple branches, but you will want to leave an offering of tobacco, which is one of the four sacred medicines, at the base of the tree as a thank you. It is nice to leave an offering of tobacco as well when you take fallen branches. During this process we were able to use tobacco that we grew onsite last year.

Making Medicine Bags

During class, the students made medicine bags of cedar, another one of the four sacred medicines. Having access on school grounds and to the sacred medicines is amazing. A medicine bag is a small pouch worn by indigenous people. You place sacred medicines inside that will help you heal. You can also put, tobacco, white sage and sweetgrass. Each sacred medicine has a different meaning and purpose.

We are working to have access to all four sacred medicines on site. We grow tobacco each year and were able to dry the leaves and it is shared with the indigenous education department in SD43 and Suwa’lkh. We are trying to figure out the best watering cycle for the sweetgrass and white sage. 

The Purpose of Burning Cedar

Cedar is burnt while praying to the creator in meditation. It is also used to bless a house before moving in as is the tradition in the Northwest and Western Canada. It works both as a purifier and as a way to attract good energy in your direction; it cleanses and chases away negative energies and beings. 

We have cedar bundles available by donation. All the funds will go towards re indigenizing the Healing Forest. We will be adding in native plants in place of the invasive plants that we have been removing over the years. This year we are planning which plants to put in the forest with the Leadership class. They seem to be really excited about making these choices.


National Indigenous Peoples Day

As we shared on last year’s Truth and Reconciliation Day blog , our team has compiled a few ideas of ways you can celebration National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21st:

  1. Learning about the history of the land you are on: the people and nations to whom that land belongs, the languages spoken, and the treaties covering that land (if any). Good starting points:
  2. Familiarizing yourself with the Calls to Action identified by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada ( and the Calls for Justice identified by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (, and reaching out to your government representatives at all levels of government to ensure that all of the calls are implemented.
  3. Reflecting on important questions such as: What are you grateful for on this land? How can you express this gratitude to the land and its original inhabitants? What commitments can you make going forward to the people whose land you are occupying?
  4. Taking time to learn more about the experiences, cultures and histories of Indigenous peoples by signing up for a course, such as Indigenous Canada offered by the University of Alberta (, and visiting local communities when invited.

Additional links you can check out:


Science Odyssey 2022 Recap

We were excited to be back participating in Science Odyssey this year, Canada’s biggest celebration of STEAM. Led by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Science Odyssey brought together hundreds of fun and engaging activities across the country from May 7 to 22, 2022.

Check out our Sky, Sun, Seasons & Shadows workshop and Spotlight on Scientists interviews from our 2021 Science Odyssey events:

Social media links:


Twitter: @Sci_Od

Instagram: @Sci_Od

Hashtag: #OdySci


A week of science odyssey in review

by Jaimie Rosenwirth, Suwa’lkh Environmental Education Program Lead

This year, we held the workshops in the Suwa’lkh Healing Forest. We had 5 classes participate in the Exploring and Understanding Native Plants workshops over 3 days, May 16, 18 and 19th. 

The students worked their way through 3 stations, removal of invasive plants/planting natives, a forest walk, and ecosystem web/plant in a jar.

Station 1: Removal process. students remove Japanese knotweed, blackberries and English Ivy. These are all invasive plants that we have been removing from the forest on an ongoing basis. After they had removed the invasive plants that had the chance to plant native plants. They helped plant salal, sitka spruce, lingonberry, common camas, evergreen huckleberry, thimbleberry, snowberry, red flowering currant and stonecrop. They removed lots of Himalayan blackberries, Japanese knotweed and English Ivy. 

Station 2:  The forest walk. The students went on a walk through the forest and were identifying which plants we have. They were able to identify salal, salmonberry, thimbleberry, Indian plum, red flowering currant, cottonwood and skunk cabbage. 

Station 3: Ecosystem web/plant in a jar. During the ecosystem web each participant is given a new identity. They temporarily become something that is a part of our forest. We connect to each other using string. Students would have to say how they are connected to each other; blue heron is connected to salmon because they eat salmon. We continued making these connections until the web got complicated and more difficult to connect to someone they have not yet connected to. Plant in a jar activity takes your sight away. The leaf of a plant is placed in a jar with a sock over it so you are unable to see inside. The next step is to draw what you are able to feel. 

During the break we made tea for the students to try. We made different kinds with what we have available to us, mint as well as mint with sage and salmonberry leaves.

Thank you to the Suwa’lkh School, iHub Secondary School, Centennial Secondary School, Maillard Middle School, and Rochester Elementary School for joining us for this year’s Science Odyssey at Suwa’lkh!

Native plants information page – coming soon!

Stay tuned for the launch of our native plants resource page on our website.


Suwa’lkh means ‘New Beginnings’ in the Hul’qumi’num language

by Jaimie Rosenwirth, Suwa’lkh Environmental Education Program Lead

My name is Jaimie and I am the Suwa’lkh Environmental Education Program Lead. I have been volunteering with Fresh Roots since 2018 with an individual with autism. We both currently still volunteer up to 3 times a week. I have been working with Fresh Roots since the Fall of 2020. I have spent a lot of time working with the Leadership program through Suwa’lkh school, running the market, preparing salad for lunch, helping out with the SOYL Summer Program as well as Summer Camp. As well as growing fruits and vegetables, I love telling the students that radishes are my favourite vegetable that we grow. If they are really spicy then I need to eat them with a carrot to sweeten them up a bit. I like hearing what their favourites are as well and finding out the reasoning behind it. My camp name was given to me this past summer (2021) by a young camper, and it is Wildlife. 

The Space

Suwa’lkh is a very unique Fresh Roots location, having a garden – Suwa’lkh Medicine Garden, an orchard and The Healing Forest to work in. The students, teachers, and Smokey (a dog), at the school, enjoy eating fruit and vegetables from the garden and the orchard throughout the year. The teachers, youth and program goers have access to an outdoor classroom located in the forest. During summer programs this space provides quiet from the street near us as well as shade during the heat waves for children and youth to learn.

Smokey the Dog

Smokey is the PADS dog (Pacific Assistance Service Dogs) at school. He is a therapy dog that supports the students. When they are feeling anxious or emotional he goes to them right away. He is a sucker for carrots, especially if they are fresh from the garden. In the off-season when we don’t have any carrots he will settle for either an apple or a store carrot.

Healing Forest and Salmon Stream

Students get to take calming walks through the Healing Forest for a break. Getting to hear all the sounds of nature, birds chirping, water flowing through the stream, the wind blowing through the trees. Going for a walk through the forest is one of my favourite things to do when I just need to take a break from a task or to refocus. While in the forest during the fall, it is great to look in the stream and see if there are any salmon spawning. I myself have not been lucky enough to see any. I hope that one day I will be able to. 

Native Plants

We also have a native plant nursery. We have plants that are native to our area and they thrive in this environment. We hope to introduce them back into the community. We use the native plants from the nursery to reintroduce them to our forest. We have put thimbleberry, Sitka spruce and dune willow in places where we have removed invasives. We also use them as part of our programming. The students get to transplant native plants to areas where they have removed invasive species. We have been giving them to classes from field trips to take back to their school to plant in their gardens. We have the native plants available for purchase on our website as well as at our weekly market. 


We have a weekly market on-site every Thursday starting mid-May through to mid-October. It is located at Suwa’lkh school, 1432 Brunette Avenue. We have large orange flags leading up to the parking lot. We get help from the students to harvest the vegetables as well as set up the market stand each week. During the summer months, we have help from the SOYL youth, they come from many different schools in and around Coquitlam. The SOYL youth will help with harvesting, market set up as well as running the market. Each week a different crew of 4-5 youth is assigned to be at the market. Being at the market is one of their favourite things. Especially being the cashier. 


We have dedicated volunteers on site. They help with general farm maintenance and tasks such as weeding, seeding, transplanting, uppotting and harvesting. Our volunteers come weekly to work on tasks at times. Our volunteers live in the area and have seen the progress of the garden through the years. They love what we are doing and enjoy helping out when they can.

If you would like to volunteer, email!

CSA Veggie Box Pilot

We will be trying out a CSA veggie box program this year with 7 spaces available. Keep an eye out for more information. 


Community Spotlight – Made by Malcolm

By Jaimie Rosenwirth, Suwa’lkh Lead and Malcolm’s Support Worker

Malcolm’s Story

Malcolm is a valued Fresh Roots community member with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and the garden at Suwa’lkh School in Kwikwetlem (Coquitlam) is a place that he loves to spend time. He has been working out in the garden with Fresh Roots for 5 or 6 years now. He was a student at Suwa’lkh who helped create the garden and orchard and helped develop the 7 acre food forest next to the school. During his last year of school he worked outside 3 hours a week, seeding, weeding and uppotting. After Malcolm graduated in 2020 he wanted to continue working in the garden. He started volunteering twice a week and kept coming to the garden throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. It provided him with a safe, welcoming place to go every week. This is a place where he is able to build lasting connections with the community.

Malcolm loves to do the uppotting and seed start tasks. Weeding is also a task he loves because there isn’t too much to think about. With weeding everything must go! Malcolm really enjoyed the seed saving of lupine seeds this summer. Harvesting, leaving them to dry in a paper bag, separating seeds, packaging and labelling. He asked if we would be doing this again next year. Malcolm also really enjoys harvesting the purple peacock beans. These are easy to spot and we just have to pull them all off. The simple repetitive tasks are great for Malcolm. He does enjoy learning new farm tasks when we are able. The more things he can do means he has more choices of tasks to choose from when he is here.

Sonia, Malcolm’s Mom, has said “We are so blessed that he is so welcome there! I tell everyone what an amazing program it is all the time. He is so lucky to have Fresh Roots”.

Support the ‘Made by Malcolm’ Fundraiser!

In addition to dedicating his time to help out on the Suwa’lkh schoolyard farm, Malcolm fundraises by selling Made by Malcolm handmade cards. In January, he raised $362.34 in support of Fresh Roots experiential food literacy education programs. Way to go, Malcom and Jaimie!

Malcolm is back with another Made by Malcom Fresh Roots fundraiser, selling sets of holiday cards for $5! Each set comes with four cards (star, tree, snowflake and stocking). Show your support by purchasing a set of cards through their Facebook page:!


Suwa’lkh School’s Native Plant Sale Now ONLINE!

The Fresh Roots Team at Suwa’lkh School is very excited to announce that we’ve brought this year’s Native Plant Sale online with 2 convenient pick-up locations! If you’ve been looking to learn more about native plant species or have been searching to find your favourite native plants for your garden, this is the blog post you’ve been waiting for! 

When Fresh Roots formed a partnership with the Indigenous Education Department in Coquitlam/Kwikwetlem, one of the main requests from this community was to help provide access to native plants, especially those harder to find for sale or in our urban environment. The beauty of the Native Plant Nursery Project here at Suwa’lkh School is that the youth who work with us in preparing and selling the native plants also learn about those plants, their uses, and their seasonality.

Gray Oron, the Suwa’lkh Project Manager, had this to say about the native plants we grow:

“Native plants not only give us a sense of place and connect us to the history of the land and the people on it, but they also support our local ecosystems and are easier to care for than most plants. One of the most common questions I get is: ‘can they be outside, right now?’ The answer is yes! They belong here, they are from here, and if you give them the right environment, they will need much less care than most non-native plants!”

We are working towards deeper guidance and connection with local First Nations Communities, Knowledge Keepers, and Elders. We strive to be an ally by providing native plants to the local community and space to support the passing of knowledge to youth. The web pages for each of the native plant species we’re offering in our shop are full of information about each species, their preferred conditions, and their interactions with wildlife and humans.

You can scroll through our online shop, add the plants you would like to have in your garden to your cart, choose a pickup location, and pay online all in a few simple clicks! We will contact you to arrange a pick-up time at your chosen location once you have placed an order. There are two pickup locations to choose from: 


  1. Italian Cultural Centre (Vancouver) on Wednesdays from 4-7 pm during our Pop Up Market
  2. Suwa’lkh Secondary School (Coquitlam) on Thursdays from 4-7 pm


Thank you in advance for your support in all of the work we do at Fresh Roots, especially during this difficult time! We are grateful to the communities we are a part of and your efforts to support native wildlife and youth education through our Native Plant Sale.

Happy planting!

The Suwa’lkh Fresh Roots Team


New! Fresh Roots Thursday Pop Up Market in Kwikwetlam (Coquitlam)

The Suwa’lkh team is super excited to announce that we will be hosting a weekly pop up market at Suwa’lkh School on the corner of Brunette Ave and Schoolhouse St in Coquitlam starting Thursday, June 18th. Stop by the parking lot market space every Thursday from 4-7 pm June through October to pick up a variety of fresh, hyper-local produce and native plants grown by the very (sanitized) hands of youth and staff there to serve you at the market. 

There will be parking on-site right beside the market stand. Be sure to look for the orange Fresh Roots market signs pointing you in the right direction. 

At Fresh Roots, we are taking COVID-19 very seriously, and want to share some of the measures we’ll be taking to ensure a safe and comfortable experience at our markets. Our procedures and protocols are informed by the BC Centre for Disease Control, BC Farmers’ Markets, and Vancouver Farmers’ Markets to keep you, our community and staff safe:

  • The market will be one-way from entry to exit: Shop, Don’t Stop!
  • Cash-free payment encouraged
  • Please practice physical distancing. Keep 2m between yourself and others
  • Staff will be wearing masks, gloves and washing hands frequently
  • Hand sanitizer available for customers
  • Sorry, no dogs in the market area
  • Stay home if you are sick to keep our markets safe!

Thanks in advance for your support for all the work we do at Fresh Roots, especially during this difficult time! We are grateful for our engaged community and hope to see you at Suwa’lkh!