Grade 5 Students Connect History and Outdoor Education

Last Thursday, our Grade 5 students went to Mount Doug Park to learn more about First Nations people. Taking them to Mount Doug was an ideal location as it is a special place for First Nations people, teachers Mr. Matthew Kiel and Ms. Tawnya Mullen say.

Students learned Mount Doug’s original name – Pkols – and the history of this location. They participated in First Nations games and activities throughout the morning. At lunchtime, students learned more about residential school and the students who were sent there, as this has been the Grade 5 classes’ unit of study for this term. Students have read stories and participated in many discussions about the hardships endured by First Nations children and their families.

Just days before the trip to Mount Doug, the students were lucky to have a guest speaker, Collette Jones, come in to talk about her experience in residential school. The goal of the outdoor trip was to create as many connections as possible to their class work and the guest speaker. The day was a great success and the students learned a lot from their experiences.

SMUS has a long traditional of outdoor education and using nature as our classroom.

Recently, Mr. Jamie Pope, a member of our Outdoor Education department, has expanded his role to include supporting outdoor education at the Junior School. He will be working alongside teachers to make meaningful links between the curriculum and the outdoors.

“Immersing students into the landscape that they are studying, enhances student learning and deepens their understanding,” says Ms. Becky Anderson, Director of Leadership Development.

Student Reflections

“On Thursday we went to Mount Doug. My favourite part of the day was when we got to make a fire out of friction. Some connections I had were that it was hard to harvest food like camas. It was probably hard for First Nations to harvest enough food for winter. Another connection I had was when our teachers gave us oatmeal. I can’t believe people had to eat that stuff for years in Residential Schools. I am glad we got to do that, so we could learn more about how First Nations lived and felt. Another connection I had was that I felt so free all morning – like how we got to play games, then we had to go to a wet, cold, miserable tent and eat. This is similar to the stories that we are reading and what our guest speaker, Collette Jones, spoke to us about.” – by Ian

“We learned about the First Nations culture at Mount Doug Park. My favourite part of the day was when we looked for camas. I enjoyed this activity because if we touched the death camas we would be out, because it is poisonous. I also liked it because we got to sort of experience being like First Nations people and how difficult it would be to find food. Another part of the field trip I enjoyed was peeling off the inside of a cedar tree. It was so fun because it felt like I was standing there like a First Nations person making ropes, bracelets and necklaces. One connection I had was when we were told that we had to eat porridge and not our own lunch. During that time I only ate a half of a bite. I got really frustrated because sitting in my lunch kit was warm chicken noodle soup. In the stories we have read about residential schools, the children would have to eat the same thing – porridge – over and over. I enjoyed the whole trip. After the fun activities, the porridge and the games, I went back to school with a smile on my face. I hope we get to go back again. It was my favourite day so far in the term.” – by Alyssa

“On Thursday, both Grade 5 classes went to Mount Doug to learn about First Nations traditions and residential schools. One of the things that we did at Mount Doug was learn how to start a fire. I wonder how the First Nations did this, because it was really difficult and took a lot of people to finally get one going. Another thing I learned was that First Nations had to pick food called camas, and some of them were poisonous. I can’t imagine having to risk my life every day just to get food. While at Mount Doug, we also read a book about residential school. We didn’t read it all, but it was about two boys who escaped from residential school. I found this really cool because the story was set in Victoria. The boys must have felt really scared because they weren’t only risking their lives by canoeing across the ocean with minimal amounts of food, but they also risked getting caught. Overall, the experience was very educational and it was a great insight into the lives of First Nations people.” – by Liam

“Last Thursday, we went to Mount Doug (also known as ‘Pkols’) to learn more about the First Nations people and residential schools. We played games such as Doe Ox Eye, which is like Red Rover, and Camas Hunt. I liked looking for camas without getting poisoned by the death camas. We collected 69 camas in total. Later, we all grabbed onto a rope, closed our eyes, and walked to the tents to eat our lunch. On the way, I ran into some trees! I was excited to eat my lunch, but then the teachers gave us this hard, cold porridge. Mrs. Mullen and Mr. Keil gave us this porridge so that we could put ourselves in the First Nations kids’ shoes. Sometimes the kids had to eat porridge for breakfast, lunch and dinner at residential schools. Once I had the porridge, I thought about how the kids felt and I understood why they never wanted to eat. After that, we played some more games. Overall, I would say that it was a good trip and I learned a lot.” – by Ava

(photos by Gordon Chan)


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