February 10th, 2011 – Walking Home Projects explores DTES & Chinatown with a class from Lord Strathcona Elementary

WH Pender February 10th, 2011 – Lord Strathcona Elementary School

By Sam Knopp

This week, Walking Home Projects took a class of Grade Two students from Lord Strathcona Elementary for a walk down Pender Street to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. Over the course of this semester, Walking Home Pender Street has been focusing on the history of Chinatown, and while Lord Stratchcona Elementary is actually in Stratchcona (Vancouver’s first neighbourhood), the school has had a long relationship with Vancouver’s Chinese population, seeing as it is only a few blocks from Chinatown’s core.

Students from Lord Strathcona Elementary School go on a walk through DTES & Chinatown with Walking Home Projects (Photo credit: Catherine Pulkinghorn)

Lord Strathcona Elementary was founded in 1891, which makes it the oldest functioning school in Vancouver. It was originally built to replace the city’s first two schools (Hastings Mill School and Oppenheimer Street School) which had become too small for the city’s growing population.  One of the main reasons for the growing numbers was the freshly laid tracks of the CPR, so it is perhaps appropriate that the school was named after Donald Smith, a man who played an integral role in getting the CPR built and was given the title, “Lord Strathcona” for his efforts.

Lord Strathcona Elementary School is the oldest functioning school in Vancouver (Photo credit: Catherine Pulkinghorn)

The school’s close proximity to Chinatown and the working class roots of Strathcona itself have resulted in a long history of cultural diversity at Lord Strathcona Elementary – immigrants from Eastern and Western Europe, Asia, and Africa have all found a home at Strathcona at one time or another. From 1922-1942 the rich cultural and racial mosaic of the school garnered it the nickname, “The League of Nations.”  But like the League of Nations itself, Lord Strathcona Elementary found that working with other cultural groups does not come without its own set of difficulties, and the school was often a microcosm of the racial tensions within the city. Eventually the school adopted a “Charter of Respect” to acknowledge and support the school’s multiculturalism.

Lord Strathcona Elementary School Students on a walk with Walking Home Projects (Photo credit: Catherine Pulkinghorn)

Walking Home Projects thoroughly enjoyed walking with this group of young people, who came armed with their own experiences of the area!  As one of only three schools in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, the students of Lord Strathcona Elementary represent the small fraction of Vancouver’s young population who have regular interaction with the city’s oldest – and perhaps most contested – areas.

Sam Knopp

February 10th, 2011 – The Map of Where We Went:

February 10th, 2011 Lord Strathcona Elementary School Teacher Review

Written by: Karen Yu

Our field trip to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden was a success.  The children enjoyed their trip immensely, as did the adults.  It was amazing to see how many of the children, though residents of the community, were unaware of some of the things around them as we walked through Strathcona and Chinatown.  For example, Walking Home Projects Director, Catherine Pulkinghorn pointed out a couple of murals on our walk, and the children were excited to find details that they had never noticed before.

Historical mural on the corner of Columbia and Pender Street by artist Arthur Shu Ren Cheng (Photo credit: Catherine Pulkinghorn)

During our stay at the Garden, we had a wonderful tour guide, Claudette Martin, Head of Education, Programs and Tours,  who was very engaging with the children.  She also had a few activities which made it easier for the children, instead of them having to merely listen.  At Grade 2, it was important that the children also be able to explore and move around, and it was no surprise to me that many of the children wrote about the scavenger hunt as their favourite part of the day.

Claudette Martin, Head of Education, Programs and Tours shows our group the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden (Photo credit: Catherine Pulkinghorn)

For myself, it was a real learning experience as it was my first time visiting the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden.  On our walk there, I found myself noticing details around the Chinatown streets that I’d never noticed before, like the dragons and lanterns on the light poles.  Our parent volunteer commented that it was a wonderful trip and that he was thankful that he was able to come along.

Our group on a walk through Chinatown (Photo credit: Catherine Pulkinghorn)

What impressed me the most, however, was the great deal of organization that Catherine must have put into planning this field trip – from the correspondence with myself up to the end.  It was a very well organized trip, with no lags.  The children were always engaged actively.  Catherine was very clear with the expectations about safety as we walked through to Chinatown, which also reinforced what I had already discussed with the children.  Unfortunately, the trip ended rather abruptly, since we were late coming back to the school.  It was a quick good-bye, and no time for follow up activities, until the following day.  If we were to go on this field trip again, I would prefer to go in the morning, and then use the afternoon to discuss and do follow up activities with the children.

Thank you to Catherine and Sam for helping us have a great time!

Karen Yu

Strathcona Elementary

Lord Strathcona Elementary School students at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden (Photo credit: Catherine Pulkinghorn)

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