By Haley Grinder
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Eva Joseph Learning and Cultural Society (EJLCS) installed a new community garden this month. The garden is a way to increase a sense of community, while also providing a wonderful additional outdoor-learning opportunity for children attending the Little Badger Early Learning Programs. 

The philosophy at Little Badgers operates on a belief that children are not only our future but also avid learners of life at a very early age. They are given the same respect, happiness, freedom, and protection that adults come to expect, and flourish because of it.

Evelyn Walker, teacher at Little Badgers Early Learning Program, says the concept of a community garden has been in the works for a couple of years, however it required funding for completion. With the support of the Akisqnuk Chief and council, EJLCS acquired a Land?Based Capital Outdoor Early Learning Play Spaces grant to build the garden and new playground for children of the Little Badger Early Learning Programs. 

“The garden boxes are placed in a circle to represent the medicine wheel, and we really tried to focus on creating a garden that would bring community together,” says Walker, emphasizing the importance of learning from nature. “The program has an outdoor classroom and surrounding fields to explore, and the team of educators does their best to bring nature into their classrooms.” 

EJLCS, located on the Akisqnuk reserve in Windermere, had help constructing the garden from Mac-Neil Landscaping, whose team made it a priority not only to bring a vision to life, but also to explain their work to the children at Little Badgers in a patient and kind way. 

Walker says, “the garden consists of a grassy area open for picnicking and games, a dirt exploration plot, a home for the Teepee that was gifted to the EJLCS, a fire pit for community gatherings, and several raised beds. Finishing touches such as signage in Ktunaxa, a traditional plant garden, wooden Teepees for beans and peas, a fire pit, garden shed, and greenhouse will be added to the Garden by spring.” She adds that the garden will be given a new name by the Ktunaxa elders in the future.

There will also be an opening celebration in the spring, along with the creation of a committee for planting plans. The goal is to have the 2022 growing season a community initiative, with the food grown from the garden being available for all members to harvest alongside the Little Badgers. 

Walker, along with the rest of the team at Little Badgers Early Learning Program is excited for what the future holds for both the children and the community. “This collaboration will allow the children at Little Badgers to connect to the Akisqnuk community and the earth as well as learn important skills,” she says. “Not only will we be able to experience the joy of getting dirty, we will also be working on our fine motor skills, our patience as we wait for our plants to grow, responsibility as we take on watering and weeding the beds as well as many opportunities to explore the science behind a garden!”