March 10, 2011 Walking Home Projects takes a French Immersion Grade One Class from Lord Strathcona Elementary on a walk

A walking experience to Chinatown and Classical Chinese Garden
Review written by: Maureen McDonnell

On the afternoon of March 10th, the French Immersion Grade 1 class from Strathcona Elementary School had an opportunity to participate in a walk of the neighhourhood given by Walking Home Projects’ Director, Catherine Pulkinghorn and Walking Home Projects’ Intern and ECUAD student Sam Knopp.

On a walk through Strathcona and Chinatown with Grade One students from Lord Strathcona Elementary (Photo credit: Catherine Pulkinghorn)

The walk began shortly after the 12:30pm bell at the school.  Our first stop was the intersection of East Pender and Dunlevy.  Catherine pointed out the direction of the Vancouver Port.   Students had an opportunity to talk about how some families came to Vancouver from different parts of the world.  In the old days people from Asia would arrive in the Vancouver Port by boat before settling in Vancouver.  Mention of the Vancouver Port also ties to the discussion of transporting the building materials from China when the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden was built in 1986.

We stopped to look at and think about the mural at East Pender and Gore (Photo credit: Catherine Pulkinghorn)

Our next stop was East Pender and Gore.  We looked at the 2400 square foot painting of Lao Tzu by 28-year-old artist Alex Li marking the 125th anniversary of Chinatown commissioned by Vancouver’s Great Beginnings Program.   The wall mural depicts famous scholar, Lao Tzu riding a water buffalo.  Students were asked to identify what they saw in the mural.  Students talked about the details of the scholar, some said he looks old, some said he has a long beard, some noticed the yin/yang symbol on the robe.  A little girl who’s visited China answered Catherine’s question whether the mural depicted “China in the past” or “China in the future”.  According to this student, people ride in buses and cars in China and she did not see people ride on water buffaloes.  She concluded that the mural describes “China in the past”.

We stopped and looked at this colourful mural at East Pender and Main Street (Photo credit: Catherine Pulkinghorn)

We made another stop at East Pender and Main in front of the “Welcome to Vancouver Chinatown” mural.  Students were engaged in the discussion what they saw on the mural. They pointed out interesting elements such as the dragon head, fire crackers, the rainbow, the night market, the water and the dragon boat.  We came to the conclusion that this mural represents today’s Chinatown.

We finally made our way to the entrance courtyard of the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden.  Students had a chance to listen to the music that came out of the shop adjacent the courtyard.  The only trick for them to hear the music was that they had to be in absolute silence.  They were quiet and heard the music!

At the entrance of the Garden, Catherine talked more about who Dr. Sun Yet-Sen was. We learned that he was a scholar.  He studied for a long time for the job.  We also talked about some rules.  Students were divided in small groups with an adult as leader.

Noticing things in the water at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden (Photo credit: Catherine Pulkinghorn)

The surrounding area of the Garden was very calm and full of visual stimulation.  Students talked about the water, the ducks, the leaves, the plants and the trees.  One student noticed the tile floor and our discussions quickly turned to the shape, texture and the colours of the floor.  We learn ed that all materials including the stones, rocks, pebbles, roof tiles, wood and the plants all transported from China.  Catherine drew our attention to the different levels of the garden structure.  Apparently, artists were considered the most important people in Chinese tradition and that’s why the artist area was built on higher level than the rest of the Garden.  The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden itself represents a congregation of a large extended family with approximately 200 family members living together.

Standing where the musicians and artists perform at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden (Photo credit: Sam Knopp)

The walk with Walking Home Projects was a great experience for the students.  Although most students live in the Strathcona/Chinatown neighbourhood, most students including the parents who accompanied them have never been to the Garden.  Catherine is very knowledgeable of the Garden and Chinatown.  I liked the way she framed her questions which allowed students to make connection to what they see on the street during the walk and inside the Garden.

If I were to do the walk again with Walking Home Projects, I would have students bring a drawing pad and do some drawing or sketching of what they see along the walk and inside the Garden.  I highly recommend Walking Home Projects to other classes.  In my opinion, this would be an excellent project for older students (Grades 5 to 7).

Students from Lord Strathcona Elementary in the courtyard outside of the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden (Photo credit: Catherine Pulkinghorn)

Participating in this field trip made me realize that we often take our neighbourhood for granted.  We overlook things that the city planners work so hard to do such as orchestrating the elements of design in order to build a unique neighbourhood.  We are constantly going somewhere.  We are often in a race.  I think every now and then we should slow down and to do more “stopping and looking”.  What we discover may be a very pleasant experience.  We may even see something that is totally new to us.

Maureen McDonnell
French Immersion Primary Teacher

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

Youth Responses