Students at E.J. Dunn Elementary School who choose to are spending more and more time in the school’s cooking classroom. They are learning how to preserve and prepare some traditional First Nations foods, and throughout the year, serve it at various events. It is part of the continual increase of sharing culture among the student, parent and staff population.
Last Wednesday, teacher Moira Barney led students through making bannock and Jean Thomas, Nuu-chah-nulth Education Worker, prepared salmon; all of which contributed to that evening’s Fall Feast. Barney grew up helping in the kitchen with family events and since her time at E.J. Dunn, has helped with the annual turkey dinners and potlucks.
“As long as I have been teaching, we have done some cultural component every year,” Barney said. “But this year, it is especially important. With the change in the schools, our population is more than half First Nation and Aboriginal.”
The Fall Feast was for all students and parents, as well as staff and the Early Years Centre workers, so a lot of food was needed. By having the help of students, it taught them skills they may not otherwise learn in school.
“It is important to have the kids cooking because we can give them the same skills as when [the foods classes] were built into the curriculum,” Barney said. “They also learn nutrition and how to be in the kitchen.”
Both Jeffery Frank and Diego McCarthy had made bannock before at home.
“This is my third time,” Frank said. “I learned from my mom. She is a good baker.”
“I learned from my grandma,” McCarthy said. “It’s fun and can be messy.”
It was a first for Jersey Robinson to make the quick bread.
“It was pretty tricky putting it all in the pan because it is sticky,” she said.
Thomas made baked salmon, which she froze over the summer specifically for the event.
“I also want to teach the kids how to make upsquee and later blackberry jam,” Thomas said. When she is not cooking with students, Thomas is in the classroom teaching First Nation language. She said it is important to keep the culture alive.
“When they brought in the residential schools, we were not allowed to speak the language, sing or dance,” she said. “We are trying to get that all back now.”
Barney and Thomas hope to encourage more students to volunteer in the kitchen.
“We want to get more students next time with a goal of them learning how to work in a kitchen independently so we can work on a bigger project together,” Thomas said.