Students clear ‘evil place’ of burdock

Jacob Plewes (left) and Ella Shimmin happily shove burdock into a bag held open by Ava Gould on Earth Day. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)Jacob Plewes (left) and Ella Shimmin happily shove burdock into a bag held open by Ava Gould on Earth Day. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Madelynn Stevens (centre) makes a face as she uses a pair of tungs to pick up some greater burdock. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)Madelynn Stevens (centre) makes a face as she uses a pair of tungs to pick up some greater burdock. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Cindy Craig’s Grade 2-3 class prepares to head out to clear some burdock and plant some willow trees at 108 Mile Elementary School. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)Cindy Craig’s Grade 2-3 class prepares to head out to clear some burdock and plant some willow trees at 108 Mile Elementary School. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Landyn McCallum and Rylan Wiltshire carry a shovel and a rake as they head out to dig up some greater burdock near Mile 108 Elementary School. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)Landyn McCallum and Rylan Wiltshire carry a shovel and a rake as they head out to dig up some greater burdock near Mile 108 Elementary School. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Jessica Totzauer use’s a scrap of fake fur to demonstrate how burdock’s seeds stick to animals. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)Jessica Totzauer use’s a scrap of fake fur to demonstrate how burdock’s seeds stick to animals. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Alexa Taylor and Jayelle Horswell study a series of burrs stuck in fake fur while learning about invasive species. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)Alexa Taylor and Jayelle Horswell study a series of burrs stuck in fake fur while learning about invasive species. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Roland Totzauer digs up some greater burdock while Ms. Cindy Craig’s Grade 2-3 class watches. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)Roland Totzauer digs up some greater burdock while Ms. Cindy Craig’s Grade 2-3 class watches. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Ryker Rislund (left), Archer Hermiston and Leelan Davies study a piece of synthetic fur covered in burrs from a burdock plant. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)Ryker Rislund (left), Archer Hermiston and Leelan Davies study a piece of synthetic fur covered in burrs from a burdock plant. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Mile 108 Elementary student Ella Shimmin grins as she holds up pieces of clipped burdock during Earth Day clean-up last week. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)Mile 108 Elementary student Ella Shimmin grins as she holds up pieces of clipped burdock during Earth Day clean-up last week. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Alexa Taylor picks up trash from a stream near Mile 108 Elementary School. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)Alexa Taylor picks up trash from a stream near Mile 108 Elementary School. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Alexa Taylor makes a face as she picks up trash from a stream near Mile 108 Elementary School. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)Alexa Taylor makes a face as she picks up trash from a stream near Mile 108 Elementary School. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Jayelle Horswell pokes the earth with a stick as she looks for fresh spring growth near Mile 108 Elementary School. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)Jayelle Horswell pokes the earth with a stick as she looks for fresh spring growth near Mile 108 Elementary School. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Alexa Taylor and Madelynn Stevens were happy to learn about invasive species like burdock and native species like willow on Earth Day. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)Alexa Taylor and Madelynn Stevens were happy to learn about invasive species like burdock and native species like willow on Earth Day. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Mile 108 Elementary students tackled the “evil place” – a patch of invasive burdock – during Earth Day Friday.

Cindy Craig’s Grade 2-3 students decided to focus on the plant, which spreads its seeds via prickly burrs, after several students got them in their hair during a game of tag several weeks ago.

“We were learning about burdock and played a little game of tag in the bushes and they all came out with it stuck on their hair and on their clothing, so that’s why they called it the ‘evil place,’” Craig said.

She decided to use the patch of weeds as a teaching moment for her class during Earth Day. She accepted Wildlife BC facilitator Jessica Totzauer’s offer to show the students how to safely dispose of the invasive weed.

Totzauer said she was happy to teach students about the plants growing around their school grounds, even the invasive ones. Before the class set to work removing them, she demonstrated how the burdock’s barbed seeds are designed to catch and stick to the fur of passing animals.

She also told the class the plant was introduced to North America when people grew it in their gardens. At the time, its taproot was still a common ingredient in many dishes, though outside of China, Japan and parts of Italy, its popularity has decreased in recent years. In the wild, it outcompetes native plants and can kill smaller animals who get covered in its burrs, she said.

“It would be nice to spend a full day with them so they could be quiet, listen and feel nature instead of just digging around quickly in the soil,” Totzauer said. “We just want to instill a mindset of caring about the earth every day, not just on Earth Day.”

After initial hesitation, the class took to the task. Alexa Taylor and Madelynn Stevens said they were happy to help make their schoolyard healthier.

“Burdocks sticks to all your clothes and pokes you and then the seeds get all over you and you carry it everywhere,” Madelynn said. “So we dug it up, clipped it and put it into bags.”

Later on, Totzauer’s husband Roland showed them how to properly plant and trim a willow tree. Afterwards, several students took it upon themselves to begin picking up trash to make the environment cleaner.

Craig said her class plans to clear the area of burdock and plant willow trees along the perimeter instead. This project will require coordination and the help of the Totzauers but after today she thinks her class know why it’s important.

“We are learning about lifecycles as part of our science curriculum this spring so I thought it was a wonderful experience for the kids just to get out there and connect with nature.”



patrick.davies@100milefreepress.net

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