(Fort McMurray, AB, June 3, 2022) An entire school community - over 500 students, dedicated staff, parents/guardians and a desire to make their surroundings better - Dr. Clark Public School came together for the grand opening of their outdoor gardens and a stunning Indingenous mural. Attended by school and Division leaders, the celebration also saw a community meet and greet yesterday afternoon.
The 20 garden beds were purchased last year thanks to the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo’s (RMWB) Community Impact Grant for $30,000. The space has a memorial bench housing a fairy garden, a rain catcher, composter, and a seacan for storage that has a beautiful dino mural on it. Nazia Hiscock, VP, Dr. Clark and Hilary Banks, grade 5 teacher came together to apply for the grant. Shannon Dube, FMPSD’s Numeracy Coordinator had applied for an Indigenous mural grant through the RMWB, and the collaboration produced local Métis artist Treasure Cooper’s stunning 10 feet by 20 feet acrylic mural at the school.
“The entire project would not have been possible without the funds from the RMWB’s Community Impact Grant. We thank them for bringing our vision to life,” notes Hiscock, who has been with Dr. Clark since August 2020.
“The mural shows our commitment to Indigenous Education, and the 94 calls to action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Lesson plans have been created and implemented for teachers to visit the mural.”
Rahaf Rahime, a grade 6 student enjoys working on the gardens immensely, and has been an integral part of maintaining the gardens. She even received the Dr. Clark Environmental Stewardship Award last year for her efforts.
“I have enjoyed learning how to grow fruits, flowers and vegetables. I loved gardening so much that I wanted to donate shovels and buy the tools needed to take care of it. During Covid school closures, I would love to go back to the school and see what Ms. Hiscock and Ms. Banks were working on. I even brought my brother to help shovel dirt too,” Rahaf shares.
“Students were so excited to see how our garden turned into this lush green space, with plentiful sunflowers and veggies. For some students it was their first experience gardening and seeing where their food comes from so that was really special. One class even got to pick, prep, and share a garden salad together. This year the buzz about the garden was even greater than our first year because students knew what to expect. On supervision students would come up and make requests for what they wanted to see in the garden, and ask if they could help. The planting we did this year was based on student suggestions,” Banks comments.
A first for Dr. Clark’s 50-plus-year history, the mural consists of Indigenous constellations along with the Northern Lights, and Aurora Borealis. They represent the long history and connection between Indigenous understandings of stars and the Northern Lights. Across the middle is the traditional Métis belt, depicting the strong culture of the Métis peoples. The seven grandfather teachers - buffalo, bear, wolf, beaver, Sabe, turtle and eagle complete the painting.
Treasure Cooper shared the process of creating the mural.
“The Dr. Clark mural was the biggest painting I've done so far and challenging. The piece comes from an educational point of view. I want the viewer to see Indigenous beliefs and teachings in my art. To ask themselves what can they learn of the Indigenous people through that lens. I find it important to collaborate with educational institutions because knowledge and learning are important bridges to understanding and accepting differences in culture/peoples. Dr.Clark has made it possible for me to share my Indigenous culture through my art. Thank you again for this opportunity, it was a pleasure working with the school and FMPSD. Thanks for trusting me with this project. I'm always grateful that I can share my art and it's even more special that it's for the public to enjoy.”
Treasure shares a fun fact about the mural - only four colours and white were used in the entire painting: red, blue, yellow and green. The same three colours red, blue and yellow were used for all the animals, mixed at different ratios.
Truly a community project, the mural Hiscock shares has been beneficial on many levels.
“Perhaps the most influential benefit that we have seen as a result of this project has been to bring together an entire community beyond the four walls of the classroom. The students at Dr. Clark School engage in real life learning, connecting with nature and acknowledging the Indigenous history of the land we learn and grow on. By getting outside, staff and students’ mental health and well-being improved through working on a school-wide project. The mural is also a huge hit with the parents/guardians. They have been incredible at taking care of the gardens over the summer. The collaborative nature of our school gardens and mural will continue its legacy for years to come.”
Congratulations to everyone involved with the gardens and the mural.
Event album can be accessed here.
For more information, please contact: