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

Just Posted

Remember Spunky? Santa came out to Sidney to check on him

Red-tailed Hawk made headlines last year after being stolen, raised by eagles

MISSING: 59-year-old Pamela Fletcher

Fletcher was last seen in the area near Royal Jubilee Hospital on Dec. 10

Mainroad South Island reminds drivers to keep them in the loop

Call the hotlines for concerns on local provincial highways

IIO doesn’t recommend charges after motorcyclist death in Mill Bay

An off-duty VicPD officer was involved in the crash

Custom motorcycle and wood cutter stolen from Sooke motorcycle shop

2006 Husqvarna motorcycle and 2-ton log splitter taken from outbuilding

VIDEO: Royals reveal the images on their Christmas cards

Prince William and his wife Kate are shown outside in casual clothes, their three young children in tow

POLL: Are you dreaming of a white Christmas?

The rain Vancouver Island is famous for is coming down in buckets,… Continue reading

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Dec. 11, 2018

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Media, robotics, Indigenous studies coming to B.C. Grade 12 classrooms in 2019-20

Provincial tests are also being changed for students in Grade 10 to 12, the Education Ministry said

ICBC to apply for 6.3% hike to basic insurance rates

Crown Corporation said it will be submitting its next basic rate application to the British Columbia Utilities Commission Friday

Stranded B.C. trucker writes final wishes before being rescued 3 days later

‘I was just praying someone would come along’

Canfor Corp. extending temporary curtailment of sawmills in B.C.; cutting hours

Vancouver-based company says the decision is due to declining lumber prices, high log costs and log supply constraints

Canada’s prospective world junior team members await final roster decisions

Thirty-four players were invited to the national junior selection camp

Woman guilty of impaired driving in death of Vancouver Island pedestrian

Man in his 70s killed in 2016 Courtenay multi-vehicle incident

Most Read