Contractors, First Nations liaison staff, school staff and PAC members pose at the site of Bayside Middle School’s new outdoor classroom and friendship garden.                                 (Steven Heywood/News staff)

Contractors, First Nations liaison staff, school staff and PAC members pose at the site of Bayside Middle School’s new outdoor classroom and friendship garden. (Steven Heywood/News staff)

Central Saanich school building a connection to local first nations

Outdoor classroom project to help enhance Bayside Middle School’s indigenous education

Set against a backdrop of trees and greenery, the site of a new outdoor classroom and garden at Bayside Middle School in Brentwood Bay seems perfectly sited for its purpose of peace and friendship.

The project was the brainchild of Bayside Parents Advisory Committee (PAC) member Tamara Loriencz, who had experience with outdoor classrooms and gardens while living in a different province. She also wrote a successful grant application to the TD Friends of the Environment Fund. Under its Common Ground Project in celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary as a country, Bayside is one of only two schools on Vancouver Island receiving funding — to the tune of $15,300.

PAC President Marti Redman says they had wanted to create a legacy project for Bayside students. So, they partnered with the school, local First Nations and the community at large to create NEPENEKAUTW — a name in the language of the Saanich Peninsula’s WSANEC people. It will be the outdoor classroom, paired with a friendship and peace garden on three sides of the new structure. The project is expected to cost between $25,000 and $35,000 and has already received a lot of financial and material support from the community — including contributions from architect Bradley Shuya, Flynn Roofing and Unitech — the latter two have been at Bayside already, working on replacing the school’s leaky roof.

“This is a significant addition to our school and reflects our core values of caring for the environment and cultural diversity,” said Bayside Principal Wendy MacDonald.

She said the space will be one of peace and learning. The first peace pole to be erected at a local school will be installed in the classroom in time for its expected grand opening on Sept. 21 — also United Nations International Peace Day. MacDonald added the pole is inscribed with the text “May Peace Prevail On Earth” in 12 different languages, including English, French and SENCOTEN, the indigenous language that is taught in the school.

Redman estimated that the entire project is worth around $50,000 — with in-kind and cash donations all-in. The Bayside PAC is still accepting donations and anyone who wishes to contribute can do so through the school itself.