Heexal Dennis Marshall plants some seeds in one of the garden beds at Haahuupayak School. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

Heexal Dennis Marshall plants some seeds in one of the garden beds at Haahuupayak School. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

Haahuupayak students grow their own garden

New gardening program funded by federal grant for food sovereignty

Students at Haahuupayak School on the Tseshaht First Nation reserve are getting some hands-on work outside and learning how to grow their own healthy meals thanks to a new garden program.

The garden program started up earlier this year after the school received federal grant funding for food sovereignty. Anna Wilson, a teacher at Haahuupayak and the garden coordinator, says that the purpose of the program is to teach the students to grow their own garden that may become a neccessity as the world changes.

Each grade—from Kindergarten to Grade 7—has its own garden plot to seed and transplant fruit, vegetables and flowers. The students are responsible for the care, maintenance and harvest of their bed. Some areas outside the garden boxes also have native trees, shrubs and herbs for the students to take care of.

Construction of the gardens began a month ago and students started working in their gardens last week.

“I think it came about largely because of COVID,” said Wilson. “Right now, outdoor education is a need. We’re seeing more of an acceptance and support for that to actually happen.”

Students will have hands-on work out in the garden, followed by lesson plans in the classroom. The project is incorporated into class curriculum for many subjects, including math, science, Nuu-chah-nulth studies and physical education. For older students, the project ties into business and community work.

“We’re hoping to harvest the food and teach [students] about the processing,” said Wilson. “There will be some gifting of food to the community as well.”

Wilson has mostly been focusing on plants that will be harvestable while the students are still in school, such as peas, radishes, lettuces and garlic.

Eventually, she says, she hopes to incorporate the garden into the school’s lunch program.

“We want to really teach them how to feed their bodies in a healthy way,” said Wilson.

So far, the garden has been a hit for students.

“They’re pretty enthusiastic,” said Wilson. “The other day they came out here and saw the radishes that were sprouting from seed and were pretty excited.”

The garden is only one part of Haahuupayak School’s outdoor education plans. Future projects include an outdoor shelter and eating area and canoe classes for older students. Wilson says that students are also learning some wilderness and traditional skills, such as foraging and smoking and canning fish. She also hopes to incorporate a composting program next year.

“This is just the beginning,” said Wilson.


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Heexal Dennis Marshall and Arianna Watts plant sunflowers in the communal garden bed at Haahuupayak School. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

Heexal Dennis Marshall and Arianna Watts plant sunflowers in the communal garden bed at Haahuupayak School. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

Anthony Holtslag plants a sunflower in the communal garden bed at Haahuupayak School. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

Anthony Holtslag plants a sunflower in the communal garden bed at Haahuupayak School. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

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