Planting seeds towards understanding
By Darren Lum
Published Jan. 17, 2017
Canada is getting a little smaller for local students, who are reaching north to Nunavut to learn about a world away with the help of Abbey Gardens.
The Haliburton Home School students, also known as the Garden Patch Kids at the gardens, have started an exchange with students from Arnaqjuaq School, located 2,641 kilometres away in Hall Beach, Nunavut.
The 12 home school students, ranging in ages from six to 12 created the Seed Pals Scrapbook, a binder of information to send and educate the Arnaqjuaq students about life here.
Gardens education co-ordinator Irene Heaven said this is just the beginning of what she hopes is a long and fruitful exchange.
“This first introduction, the Seed Pals Scrapbook is really to introduce who the homeschool group is as individuals and what we do [here] as the Abbey Gardens Garden Patch Kids; what we do here at the program; a little bit about Haliburton and to get them to know about our community and how it is different,” she said.
Heaven said write-ups, drawings and photos were included in the binder to show who the students are, the trees and ponds that surround the property. Seeds, which were planted last spring by the home school students in the Abbey Gardens education garden and collected in autumn, were also included so the Nunavut students could plant them in their indoor garden.
The students of Arnaqjuaq School will return the same kind of package later this year.
Hall Beach, which has a population of 748, is also known as Sanirajak – the shoreline place - in Inuktitut. It is considered the oldest known permanently inhabited community existing north of the Arctic Circle, according to Nunavut Tourism. It is also known for the annual arrival of herds of walruses. The population comprises of 92 per cent Inuit and the main languages are Inuktitut and English.
The home school students regularly come to Abbey Gardens every Wednesday between September and October and then again April to the end of June as part of their education curriculum to learn about the surrounding outdoors such as the gardens, forests, streams and ponds from Heaven and program co-ordinator Cara Steele.
The exchange idea was initiated by a teacher from the kindergarten to Grade 12 Arnaqjuaq School.
Back in early summer of 2016 Emily Bradford came to the Highlands and visited Abbey Gardens and met with Heaven and Steele. Bradford explained how her school was working on a worm project and held hopes for an indoor gardening program. Where the Nunavut school is located there isn’t any soil, or plants or worms like here. Heaven thought the exchange would be educational for everyone involved and followed up with a letter about the exchange.
Joleen Thomas, a mother of three homeschool students, six, eight and 10-years-old sees this as a unique opportunity that could encourage her children to want to explore the world.
“That they’ll want to investigate. Later on, I hope to do a cross-Canada tour. Maybe we’ll do a cross-Canada northern upper tour. But [I think this will] give them an awareness of what Canada [is about],” she said.
Heaven appreciates the future opportunities that could come from this exchange, whether its discovering more or establishing pen pals.
Despite the exchange being incomplete, Heaven and the student group have already learned about some major differences in their research to learn more about Nunavut, which doesn’t have worms or the plant life we see.
“To us it seems so different because we go out and play in the garden, we plant and see worms all the time. We have trees all around, both coniferous and deciduous. Just that as a starting learning point is quite something,” she said. “It will be exciting to see what comes back to us and what they send to us.”
She said it deals with things we couldn’t understand such as 24 hour day light and 24 hour night time.
“There are so many different things that I think these kids are going to learn. Myself too about how different of a culture it is and how different an environment it is,” she said. “When we started talking we just thought: Let’s just do this. Let’s see if we can get the groups together and because we run this program we were able to do just that and reach out.”