Erin Berscheid graduated from University of Saskatchewan College of Agriculture with a Bachelor of Science in Food and Applied Microbiological Sciences. She has recently completed her Bachelor of Education from University College of the North. Erin is a mother, wife, teacher, farmer, sister, and northern resident.
Ideas for the Classroom
All of the suggested activities lead to the main project of creating a Three Sisters garden using recycled materials. The suggested inquiry questions and investigations are based on Northern Manitoba environmental conditions and resources.
To begin, students will need to understand the story of the Three Sisters and the general concept of relationships. After the students watch the Three Sisters video, ask a local Elder to join the class and share the story of the Three Sisters from her or his perspective. Each nation has a unique version of the story and a local perspective can make it relevant to student experience. Elders also have the ability to personalize the story and add details.
Inquire into local growing conditions. Research the plants that thrive in the environment. What are the environmental conditions that impact plant growth? What would we need to do to create a Three Sisters garden in our school yard?
Northern communities have a limited growing season. Through research and experiments students will discover the supports the garden requires to survive in their geographical area. Plants are heat sensitive so students will have to analyze the amount of daylight their community receives. This in turn indicates the variety of seeds that can be used.
Data from weather websites, climate records or local experience can inform their planning. If computers are not accessible, students can observe and record observations for the first year and continue with the project in the following year. Do a field test of the soil that is available for planting. Using a jar and water, students can examine the different striations of soil and consider its composition.
Map it Out
Create a blueprint of the school yard on grid paper. A garden requires heat and light. By considering the location of trees, buildings or play structures, students can suggest an optimal location for the garden and calculate the shade projections from surrounding objects. is task invites us to locate shaded areas, utilize the angles and the position of the sun during the different times of the day, and calculate the soil surface area required to grow our Three Sisters garden.
The Health Benefit
The distance from farm to table in Northern communities is far greater than most. Transportation costs and limited shelf life impacts the quality and variety of food available. Students can to do a price comparison of food costs from various locations and research the challenges and health benefits of locally produced foods.
Time to Plant
Recycled containers can be collected and used as starting pots for the plants. Invite the students to personalize their containers with colours and images associated with their cultural heritage. When the class transplants the vegetables to the garden, the containers will illustrate and celebrate our diversity.