By Jennifer Kardynal, BC Parks Community Liaison Officer (South Coast)
This year, one of the community engagement projects supported by the BC Parks License Plate Program was an immersive learning experience in a popular marine park near the Lower Mainland at Porteau Cove. Students in the Aya7Ayulh Chet (Cultural Journeys) program at St’a7mes School visited Xwawchayay (the Squamish name for Porteau Cove Park) along with staff from Oceanwise, divers from the Marine Life Sanctuary Society, and knowledge holders from the Skwxwu7mesh Uxwumixw (Squamish Nation) exchanged knowledge, songs and perspectives on the beaches and throughout the forested campground.
Over two days, students from kindergarten to grade six spent time examining the shoreline and life under the sea. The divers from the Marine Life Sanctuary Society arrived early to dive down to 60 feet to bring up a variety of marine life. Staff from Oceanwise ensured the animals were well taken care of as they temporarily visited the world above the surface.
The students started each day with an opening circle led by Charlene Williams of the Squamish Nation and guest knowledge holders who brought forth Squamish language, songs and teachings. Throughout the morning, Oceanwise staff talked about the amazing ocean life in the Átl’ḵa7tsem (Howe Sound). Students spent half the day exploring the beach, finding interesting specimens and examples of geology, sea life, and human impact. The interpreters from Oceanwise shared their knowledge of oceanography, and teachers from the Squamish Nation shared their language, culture, and stories of the area. The second half of the day was spent learning about scuba diving and the equipment the divers use to access the depths of the ocean. This diving information lesson was followed by an opportunity to touch (very gently and under close supervision) some of the sea life and see these amazing animals up close. All the animals were safely returned to their original homes by the divers after each day was done.
Both days were filled with experiential learning- interweaving science, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Sníchim (language), culture, and sport into a day of immersive discovery. A big thank you to the Aya7Ayulh Chet (Cultural Journeys) program of School District 48, Oceanwise, the Marine Life Sanctuary Society, the Squamish Nation and everyone who made this day possible.
Learn more about BC Parks Licence Plates at bcparks.ca/licence-plates/