General Currie Elementary: The Land is Our Home

Wednesday November 6th, 2019


In this project, students learned about how we are connected to the land.  Students explored the land of Richmond, Greater Vancouver, and BC to inquire into how our daily lives, and our identities are shaped by our local environment.  We learned about resources that are provided by the land, and how those resources are taken, used, and cared for (or not cared for) by humans. We learned about the human impact on land, and how we can become more responsible stewards of the land.  As part of our study, we explored Indigenous worldviews to understand how we can learn from Indigenous peoples to nurture more healthy and connected relationships with the the land.


Connection to the Vancouver Biennale Exhibition:

Students visited Water #10 by Ren Jun.  We discussed the importance of water as a basic need for sustaining life.  The artist created this installation with a powerful message for all, as water is a universal experience.  We then passed the Richmond Oval, and walked along River Road (Dyke Trail) to Terra Nova Community Garden, to learn about soil and water working together to grow food.  Then, we continued on to the Terra Nova Adventure Park to explore how humans use natural materials and landforms for entertainment.

Enduring Understandings/Big Ideas:

Social Studies (Grade 3/4):

  • The pursuit of valuable natural resources has played a key role in changing the land, people, and communities of Canada.
  • Indigenous societies throughout the world value the well-being of the self, the land, spirits, and ancestors.
  • Indigenous knowledge is passed down through oral history, traditions, and collective memory.
  • People from diverse cultures and societies share some common experiences and aspects of life.


Science (Grade 3):

  • Living things are diverse, can be grouped, and interact in their ecosystems.


Guiding Questions:

  • How are we connected to the land?
  • As stewards of the land and its resources, what are our rights and also our responsibilities?
  • What can we learn from Indigenous peoples, as we explore our relationship to the land?


Cross-Curricular Access:

  • Science: learning about local biodiversity and ecosystems
  • Math: sequencing and time (learning about the stages and duration of growth); graphing (in order to display the information about growth as associated with different types of plants); looking at patterns as they occur in nature; looking at statistics and how they can be interpreted in relation to environmental studies
  • Language Arts: using writing to reflect and explain learning and connections; using oral storytelling and traditions to learn about the past and create meaning.
  • Fine Arts: exploring processes that transform ideas and experiences into visual images and exploring image-making technology through natural means
  • ADST: using digital technology to create infographics about issues related to our study, for instance, global water use.

Inquiry Challenges:

This inquiry centred on the relationship between humans and the environment.  Therefore, to begin, students first learned about our local environment, exploring the question, “What is significant about our local environment?”


Students began by asking the question, “What is a place that you find to be significant to you?”  They explored how place may impact all your senses, your emotions, and your memories. Students explained their connection using loose parts, and extended their thinking by writing a story or poem about connections to a place.  Students learned about their own family histories in terms of coming to this place of Richmond, in order to uncover how connections to Richmond may be varied and complex.


Students learned about where the local land came from in terms of the formation of the river delta that is Richmond.  They learned about local Indigenous peoples. They gained an understanding of the stories of this land; they learned about the resources of this place, and how these resources have created community since time immemorial.  Students engaged in activities from the Musqueam Teaching Kit: Giving Information About Our Teachings, in order to explore Indigenous stories, worldviews, and histories.


Students mapped out our local environment, and created a model of our local environment to show significant locations, and names of these locations in English, and in Hunqiminum.  Students learned about the significance of language, and naming, and how the naming of places comes from a human connection to place.   Students explored the Indigenous names of places locally, and across Canada, making use of the Canadian Geographic Indigenous Floor Map of Canada.


Students asked the question, “What are the resources of our local environment?”, and compared local resources to that of a different environment.  Students considered how we use our resources, and how we obtain resources that are not provided in our local environment.  Students evaluated how we use our resources, and how our local land, and then more broadly, the land of Canada has been reshaped for resource exploration and development.


Students focused on the resource of water, exploring its use globally, and specifically in terms of the Pacific Ocean and the Fraser River.  Students studied the water cycle, especially as it relates to the Fraser River and our BC Mountains. Students investigated the use and wastage of water, and how their actions at home and within the community can impact our water resources.  Students learned about the importance of salmon to First Peoples, and how the waterways of salmon, and the salmon resource itself can be protected.


Students were asked to critically consider whether they themselves are good stewards of their environment and its resources, and then, more broadly, are we as a local community and as a global community being good stewards of our environment.  Students came up with some personal actions that they can take as individuals, and as a class community, to make a difference for the environment.


Throughout, teaching incorporated the First Peoples Principles of Learning, namely using story to teach, and to learn how Indigenous peoples value the well-being of self, and, spirits and ancestors.


Student Creation/Taking Action:

In collaboration with our artist, students engaged on a journey to connect them in an experiential way with place.  They collectively worked on the creation of an indoor class garden in which indoor garden pots featured plants that can be studied, harvested, used and shared.  They made choices about the plants being grown, and learned about their characteristics, under what conditions they grow best, and how they have been used by humans in the past and in the present.  Students learned about medicinal plants used by Indigenous people, as well as plants with sacred uses, for instance, cedar, sweet grass and tobacco. Students considered the importance of plants to our local environment, and how plants are at the centre of our local ecosystem.  Invasive species were highlighted in order for students to see the fragility of balance within a local ecosystem.  Students also investigated what plants are considered to be significant to our local farmers and to our local population due to culture.  Students considered what plants they consider to be personally significant and why.  Students engaged the community to share their plants in a plant sale/herb sale.  Along with selling their plants, they also communicated information that they have learned in their inquiry.

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