BOW VALLEY – A collaborative opportunity for students at two local schools to share their knowledge on the local wildlife bear population left no room to paws.
Grade 5 students from Exshaw School and Lawrence Grassi Middle School gathered together at the Canadian Rockies Outdoor Learning Centre on Tuesday (June 11) to learn about bears through a plethora of different activities, including get-to-know-you games and bear-themed crafts.
The event, put together by both schools, along with help from the Biosphere Institute of the Bow Valley and Stoney Nakoda Knowledge Keeper Virgle Stephens, was a chance for communities and cultures to connect.
Exshaw School teacher Genevieve Soler said Way of the Bear Day is a way to help children within the school district and different communities build relationships.
“It’s essentially a day to bring kids together from different communities and share knowledge, traditional knowledge, contemporary knowledge about the bear,” she said.
“So part of my job is to build relationships and connections with kids within the district, but in between communities, sort of cross-cultural opportunities, so this fits perfectly with that, but also allows kids to learn a little bit about curriculum and wildlife.”
Stephens said he attended to support the schools in learning about bears, particularly to let them know that the space we live in is shared with wildlife.
“We hope to show the students how to handle themselves when they [encounter] bears, what to be aware of, things like that,” he said.“How to respect nature and animals … When you go into the bush in nature, you check for animal activities, they’re there for a reason, especially at this time with the cubs and the calves, babies being born, you have to give them room.”
Students from Exshaw School put together visual projects explaining different ways to identify if a bear is, or has been in the area, and what to do should one approach you, or you encounter it. The displays included models of bear scat and bear claws, instructions on avoidance, and pelts of fur from a black bear and a grizzly bear.
Karen Messenger, a program associate at the Biosphere Institute, said the Exshaw School students prepped awesome visuals and learning tools to help the LGMS students learn.
“Today has been a lot of preparation in the making – so awesome to see it unfolding,” she told the Outlook.
“We worked with the Exshaw students, we had a couple sessions out there preparing them to be experts on bears and all different aspects of bears and also we worked with Virgle Stephens, the knowledge keeper, and he was helping us incorporate some language, Stoney language, into the stations.”
The group also shared stories about bears with one another, whether personal or passed down – one of which Messenger said involved an individual using flatulence to repel a bear.
“This is a true story, like can we can that somehow?” she said through laughter, adding that the method did indeed work.
For Stephens, sharing stories, experiences and knowledge is all a part of his culture’s traditions.
“Part of our traditional ways is sharing. Share with others and teach them, make sure that they learn about it so they can teach other people what they learn from us,” he said.