Interactive trail highlights Indigenous culture

Trail visitors can use their smartphone camera to scan QR codes and hear students speak about the history and plants in the area. Photo SPIN

After months of work in the classroom, students from Chase Secondary School celebrated at the opening of their new story trail in June.

In partnership with the BC Parks Foundation, BC Parks, School District 73 (SD73), the Habitat Conservation Trust and Adams Lake Interfor, the class created an interpretive trail in Tsútswecw Provincial Park (formerly Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park) near Chase.

The first-ever trail is the start of a new program for the BC Parks Foundation who hope to expand it to other parks across the province.

While following the trail through the park visitors can scan signs with their phone’s cameras to learn more about the vegetation and history in the voices of the students. The descriptions include Secwépemctisin language and research completed by the students by talking with their elders.

Ivy Chelsea, Secwépemctisin language teacher at Chase Secondary School, said SD73 schools had been challenged to include more language in the classrooms. When BC Parks met with them to discuss adding more Indigenous culture to parks she had just learned how to attach audio files to QR codes and the idea for the trail was sparked.

She said the class faced a steep learning curve with the technology but a process that once took up to an hour has been streamlined to around five minutes.

“I think they gained more than I did,” she said. “I gained a lot but I think the students (gained more). Their success and unwritten success. Because students know how to deal with disappointment but to me the steep learning curve for them is how do you deal with success? To me that’s a whole different level of how to deal with the world.

“Because if the world throws problems and obstacles at you but you’re not able to overcome them you get disappointed and you know how to handle disappointment but how do you handle success? I think that is a different learning curve for the students…it sets the bar for them in what the world is willing to accept as long as you work hard.”

She added she was excited to see their work inspire other trails in the province.

“We started out on our Story Trails journey because the wild, incredible nature of our backyard is core to who we are as British Columbians,” said Andrew Day, BC Parks Foundation’s chief executive officer in a press release. “It’s so important for everyone to hear stories about this land and its history from local First Nations so we can all better understand how and why it needs protecting. If we pay close attention to nature, and practise respect with caring, we can come closer to understanding how its unique hidden secrets benefit us and our world.”