Children at Hans Helgesen Elementary pack mulch around tree roots on the school grounds. (Tim Collins/Goldstream Gazette)

A tip of the HAT to Hans Helgeson students

Program has taught about nature and responsibility

Students at Hans Helgesen Elementary school are already looking forward to their next opportunity to get out onto the school grounds and to do their part in making the world a little better place.

In 2017, nine classes at the Metchosin school learned how to help create a healthier world by combating the spread of invasive plant species, creating habitat for wildlife in need and generally being better stewards of the natural world.

It was largely the work of the Habitat Acquisition Trust (HAT) and stewardship co-ordinator, Paige Erickson-McGee, who came to the school as part of a program that saw HAT attend a series of schools throughout Greater Victoria to teach children about the fundamentals of nature.

“The children had so much fun with this program, and learned a lot about the world around them,” said Hans Helgesen principal Debra Stoutley.

“In the courtyard we have raised garden beds where the students grew tomatoes, peas, sunflowers, kale and radishes. They also grew a variety of edible indigenous plants with a strong link to our First Nations. It was fun, of course, but they also learned so much.”

RELATED: ICBC speed campaign at Hans Helgesen shows drivers what’s at stake

The indigenous connection was particularly relevant at Hans Helgesen as the school is the primary elementary school for children of the Hui’q’umi’num’ First Nation. Elders from the nation came to the school to talk to the children and explain about the plants and how they have traditionally been used by indigenous communities.

Through the HAT program, the children learned about invasive species and spent time removing both scotch broom and Himalayan blackberry plants from the school grounds.

In another section of the school property, they planted local, indigenous plants that would help feed butterflies near the play area. By observing the butterflies, the children were able to learn about the life cycles of the insects and were rewarded with watching them emerge from cocoons and take flight.

The children also learned about how their activities can, quite unintentionally, be harming plants.

“We have a number of arbutus trees on the property and when the children play around the trees they harm the root systems and damage the ability of the trees to survive,” explained Stoutley. “In this program they learned about how to create mulch and pack it around the tree roots to help keep these lovely trees healthy for future generations of children to enjoy.”

As a participant in the HAT program, Hans Helgesen will also be looking forward to participating in a school-wide assembly on Earth Day in the new year (Apr. 22) where they will celebrate their successes in creating the wildflower habitat where students, teachers and community residents will have the opportunity to learn about our local flora and fauna while providing shelter for natures pollinators.

At that time, Erickson-McGee will present the students with a trophy to celebrate their hard work. Appropriately enough, the trophy is an extra thick cane of blackberry removed by the kids, mounted and spray painted gold for the occasion.

“Although the trophy is nice, the real reward for the students is seeing the results of their work and gaining a new level of knowledge and respect for nature through the program,” Stoutley said.

More information on the HAT program can be found at hat.bc.ca.

editor@goldstreamgazette.com

Habitat Acquisiton Trust

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Langford racing enthusiast back in driver’s seat of life after surviving aggressive cancer

70-year-old David Smith finishes mid-pack in Canada 200 race at Western Speedway

New nurse practitioner-led medical clinic welcomes Victoria patients

Health Care on Yates expects to serve 6,800 new patients over the next three years

Central Saanich needs at least more than 500 additional daycare spaces

Report before Central Saanich says region faces a ‘chronic shortage’ of daycare spaces

Saanich offers free saplings to encourage residents to spruce up for National Tree Day

Giveaway to take place Sept. 21 in Glanford Park from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sooke RCMP searching for two people, reported missing on Sept. 10

Alannah Brooke Logan, 20, and Beau Richard Santuccione, 32, last seen on Otter Point Road

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

POLL: Do you plan on allowing your children to go trick or treating this year?

This popular annual social time will look quite different this year due to COVID-19

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Comox Valley protesters send message over old-growth logging

Event in downtown Courtenay was part of wider event on Friday

Application deadline for fish harvester benefits program extended

Those financially impacted by the pandemic have until Oct. 5 to apply

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

Man sentenced to 7 years for gas-and-dash death of Alberta gas station owner

Ki Yun Jo was killed after Mitchell Sydlowski sped off in a stolen cube van without paying for $198 of fuel

Most Read