The Early Years Family Centre would like to that the SaskOutdoorsfor their financial support in our EYFC Connecting with Nature Project.
Funding was used towards the purchase of materials that were utilized for the various aspects of the project. Additional resources were provided through generous donations from community members, businesses and organizations. Projects ranged from planting projects in our centre to a larger collaborative project outside of our centre.
In Centre Projects included planting seeds, growing new plants from existing vegetables and exploring seeds in fruits. Through hands-on activities children were to investigate and explore a range of seeds and through the growth cycle able to observe the evolution of a plant. Discussions were also focused on the needs of a plant and how those needs are met when in a natural environment and how those needs are met when inside.
Two outdoor projects were also available to our families to participate in. One was the creation of planter boxes and planting various flowering plants. A partnership with REACH and Stepping Stones ChildCare involved a weekly visit by children and their facilitator to this garden where they would help tend to the garden and would then discuss through stories and snack the connection between plants and humans.
The second was a larger project that required the collaboration of several community groups. We have completed phase one of this project and will continue with phase two in the spring of 2015. The finished project will be a teaching garden in the shape of a medicine wheel. Traditional medicines will be planted in the four quadrants and from that point teachers / students of Scott Collegiate can use the space to talk about the traditional and current use of the plants and we at the Early Years Family Centre will also be using this as a teaching tool for sharing traditional practices and information on Native Plants with our families. Phase one concluded with the creation of the circle and planting flowering plants in the four colours of the medicine wheel. The traditional medicines will be planted in the spring as recommended by the Elder Norma Jean Byrd who was advising us on this project. Community partners for this project included the North Central Community Association, Transition to Trades (building the frames for the circle) and Scott Collegiate’s Art Teacher, Jori Cachene and her students (painting mural and rocks), Scott Collegiate’s construction students (building planter boxes).
We were satisfied with the project in that we made some headway toward the following outcomes:
· Appreciate of nature – plant growth and plant use
· Understanding of traditional practices related to plant use
· Stimulate further interest
But we also feel that this project also served as the entry point for further exploration and opportunities bto deepen the impact of the above outcomes. We have started conversations with several community partners and are exploring ways in which we can continue developing and expanding the project.
There were some lessons learned during the project that we will take forward to similar projects in the future. First the drop in nature of our centre doesn’t always allow for all of those interested in the project to take part during the day / time the activity was offered. Providing additional resources to other team members so that they can facilitate the activity on an “as needed basis” will be implemented in the future. As well, working with other community partners takes time and clarity of communication is key. We ran into a few bumps in the road when messages didn’t adequately transfer outside of the context of the original conversation. Moving forward we will allocate additional time to build relationships with partners and to set meeting times in which all involved are present.
An unexpected outcome of the outdoor medicine wheel project was the contributions by community members who became involved because they saw what was happening as they walked by. This added a community connection that we did not plan for was truly appreciated. In addition, the contributions by community organizations and the sense of pride that these individuals had in their contribution was also an unplanned outcome.
By: Lynda Gellner