Diving into biodiversity and sustainability: Environmental education and cultural exchange at St’a7mes School

UBC divers recently collaborated with Marine Life Sanctuaries Society (MLSS), BC Parks and the Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) as part of an effort to educate and engage students from St’a7mes School.

This initiative brings together individuals from various backgrounds and communities, including Elders, settlers, and Indigenous communities; and  aims to foster cultural exchange, a deeper understanding of biodiversity and sustainable practices, as well as an enhanced collective responsibility for the environment.

Exploring marine life and environmental stewardship

Environmental education plays a key role in empowering children to become advocates for sustainable living.

In this program, students gathered at Xwa’w’chayay (Porteau Cove Provincial Park) to learn about the impact of human activities on marine life, the significance of conservation efforts, and the steps they can take to protect and preserve the oceans for generations to come.

Bringing their expertise in marine exploration, our UBC divers guided the students through hands-on activities and underwater adventures. Through collecting specimens and showcasing various creatures, students gained a deeper understanding of the delicate balance of marine ecosystems and the importance of sustainable practices.

Welcome Pole Raising Ceremony: Symbolizing truth and reconciliation

A highlight of the program was the opportunity to attend the raising ceremony, which had over 200 participants. Before the pole was raised upright, a ceremony to “open up the eyes of the pole” was held and as cedar branches dipped in water from Shannon Falls were used to bless the pole.

Welcome poles hold significant cultural and spiritual meaning for Indigenous communities, serving as a visual representation of their stories, values, and ancestral connections. This Welcome Pole stood as a symbol of Truth and Reconciliation, acknowledging the past and paving the way for a harmonious future. During the ceremony, the St’a7mes School children witnessed the Welcome Pole being raised, a moment that evoked a sense of unity and appreciation for Indigenous culture.

As a gesture of gratitude and acknowledgment, the Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw presented UBC divers and their partners with hand-carved artworks to solidify the bond formed throughout the week.

Special thanks to UBC divers for camping for three days to collect the most valuable creatures for the children, and to our partners for bringing diverse communities together to build a greener, more inclusive future.

Scientific diving at UBC

UBC is a member of the Canadian Association of Underwater Science (CAUS). Science diving provides you with a tool to access the marine environment and conduct quantitative assessments of biomass and biodiversity. For more information, visit the Scientific Diving page.