Karen Gabriel (foreground) and Lorraine Goulet were honoured for the plan to bring a special garden to Douglas Park Elementary.

Garden brings native plants to Langley school

The project will highlight local plants used as food and medicine.

A “living library” will be built in the courtyard of Douglas Park Community Elementary in Langley City, thanks to an artist, a Kwantlen elder, and a teacher.

Karen Gabriel of the Kwantlen First Nation, Matsqui artist Carman McKay, and teacher Lorraine Goulet were the recipients of a blanket ceremony at the school on March 9.

Goulet got the idea from Gabriel, a frequent visitor to the school.

After going on a traditional plant walk with Gabriel, Goulet applied for grants to transform the under-utilized inner courtyard.

An ArtStarts grant of $9,500 and another grant from the school district of $5,000 will be put towards installing the garden in cedar containers, and putting up mosaic murals on the walls.

The plants will all be plants that grow wild in the region, and which have been used as food and medicine by local First Nations members.

“Before the summer arrives, you will see the courtyard transform itself,” said McKay, who will create the mosaics.

Gabriel, who has taught about plants at the school and around the community, said it was the best job she’s ever had.

“Plants are the love of my life,” said Gabriel. “My mom got sick and tired of me talking about plants.”

She used to go and dig up plants from the gardens of empty houses and transplant them back to her back garden as a child.

Gabriel encouraged the kids at Douglas Park to go out and climb a tree.

“It’s more fun outside than sitting at home playing video games,” she said.

McKay also encouraged getting out into nature.

“When I need to calm down and settle down, I go outside,” he said.

The blessing ceremony at a Douglas Park assembly began with drumming led by members of the Kwantlen First Nation.