There’s a lovely trail behind St. Joesph’s School in Chemainus. Tall trees form a green canopy overhead as you walk St. Francis Way named for the Saint who loved nature. What is so special about this walk is that it was built by the students themselves. Ten interpretive signs incorporating photography, writing and illustrations by the students give insight into the workings of nature.
Bern Muller, the principal of St. Joseph’s says the trail was constructed by the students and help from the teachers. The project took about a year and a half.
“The purpose of this project was to help the children recognize indigenous and invasive species,” says Muller. “Students observed what was in the forest, they researched, drew pictures, and wrote.”
Mark and Terry Edly combined the students’ work to create beautiful interpretive signs posted throughout St. Francis Way.
“The birds of prey is my favourite sign,” says student Isaac Muller. Ryan Gronlund agrees.
“I don’t really have a favourite,” says Ana Muller. “I just really like them all.”
“The project evolved as children start asking questions about some of the stuff they saw on the trail, and started asking what’s the difference between the indigenous and invasive plants, so it’s been a really good learning experience for them,” says Muller. The lessons included learning about medicinal plants from elders.
The trail is on private part property but people are welcome to walk the path and enjoy the playground after, says Muller. Some highlights of the walk is an ant hill, and a spot that overlooks the valley and often birds of prey can be spotted.
The children are proud of the path and the work they have put into it. The results of their lessons is now a beautiful gift to the community.
See the video here