Nature Stewards: Program Spotlight

July 15, 2021 News

Nature Stewards Program Spotlight The past two program seasons have seen 120 dedicated youth stewarding ecosystems at two important urban green spaces in Vancouver: Strathcona and Cottonwood Community Gardens, and Renfrew Ravine.


Each 10-week program begins by observing the plants around us with new eyes. We observe the many relationships that exist, and consider our own relationship with this land.

We discuss the protocols and intentions of the honourable harvest before collecting strawberry leaf for a nourishing tea. As we sip, we talk about the importance of land acknowledgments, and create our own to share.

Throughout the programs we met, nurtured and tasted the medicine of many other relatives – yarrow, nootka rose – and some who are often considered ‘weeds’ such as stinging nettle and plantain – we even had delicious dandelion root latte!

We embrace a new definition of weeds that honours the gifts of food, medicine and shelter they share with insects, wildlife and humans alike.

Next we learn about the impact of urbanization on biodiversity. With binoculars in hand, we go on a bird walk around Strathcona to see for ourselves how urban wild spaces support wildlife through food, water and nesting sites.

We spot Flickers, Chickadees and Strathcona Park’s resident eagles!

At Renfrew Ravine we continue with our restoration work of Still Creek by learning to identify and remove invasive species such as Himalayan blackberry, English Ivy and morning glory.

We learn how these plants can also be utilized as a weaving material! In their place we plant coastal strawberry and pearly everlasting.

Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Knowledge Keeper, Matthew Williams, shared teachings about how plants can be used for food, medicine, and fibre and introduced us to countless plant relations, including cedar, devil’s club, salmonberry, skunk cabbage, and red elderberry!

Back in Strathcona, we learned about sacred medicines, sage, cedar, and tobacco, which we seeded in our greenhouse. Leonard Williams of the Quatsino First Nation teaches us how to weave cedar into baskets and bracelets!

Work continues on our medicinal harvest garden with the addition of more camas, which will one day be harvested for its edible bulb.

We learned about cottonwood buds which we harvested to make into healing salves!

One of the many special moments was witnessing mason bees hatching out of their cocoons and going off into the world! You can find mason bees nesting in youth-made bee houses in Strathcona.

We honoured our time together by sharing traditional songs and dances with one another, surrounded by all the blooming medicine this season is bringing to the garden!

Thank you to all our supporters for their role in making land-based learning and nature connection accessible for youth facing barriers.

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