Learning Story – Bush Store: Land Leads Our Learning

What Happened? 

During our final session of the season, many of the Bushkids revived an ongoing game they had been playing on and off since last year:  setting up “stores” where everyone buys and sells goods either found or produced in the bush, using a currency based on spruce/pine cones (some colours of cones are worth 5x or 10x the value of ordinary cones). The entire game has been initiated and developed by the Bushkids themselves.

Some of the goods to be bought and sold were ‘found treasures’ – such as the feathers, feet or head of the goose that was plucked and eaten by the group. Other products were crafted by the Bushkids, such as sticks wittled into spears or tools. Several Bushkids worked together to create a big mud cake, complete with toppings—and were determined to bring it to market, despite the messy challenge of transport!

In addition to stores, several Bushkids became private entrepreneurs who would produce goods and take contracts from others to repair or produce goods on their behalf. A mobile tray was developed for such entrepreneurs to carry around their necks, by tying ropes and drilling holes in half-pieces of logs. Other Bushkids were focused on real estate – fixing up or furnishing little apartments (forts or cleared spaces amongst the trees) to be rented out.

This week a new role emerged – a banker – one Bushkid’s job was gathering and redistributing the cone currency to and from the businesses. 

Why is all of this meaningful? 

This game allows the Bushkids to practise a wide variety of skills, such as:

  • Collaborating for a shared purpose, encourage and supporting each other (of all ages) to belong and finding their role in the store, assuming leadership role and trusting others in their roles (like the banker) 
  • Sharing gifts/strengths and acting on personal rights when negotiating and developing the procedures of their stores
  • Assessing and managing risk when working with tools such whittling, drilling holes, tying ropes
  • Having a spirit of investigation and co-constructing knowledge through developing a market economy and structure 
  • Creativity and innovation in developing and manipulating currency and exploring the physical properties of natural materials from the land

This single inquiry incorporates various core competencies of the NWT curriculum’s “Being and Becoming an NWT Capable Person.”—included at the bottom of this learning story. We highlighted some of the competencies for you.  

Since the game has been initiated and developed entirely by the Bushkids themselves, they have been highly motivated to practise all of these skills and explore inquiries that allow them to succeed at their “businesses”.

Even when specific inquiries did not result in products being put up for sale, they could lead to other valuable lessons. For example, several Bushkids got excited about the idea of making “ink” out of charcoal or berries. Neither of these ideas worked out, but in our hunt for last year’s cranberries, we discovered other treasures we weren’t even looking for! This taught us that we should always be watching out for learning opportunities that present themselves, even when they are not part of our plan.

What does this mean for next time?

We look forward to supporting the innovative games and inquiries that emerge in the next season of the Bushkids program—whether it is another version of the Bushkids “stores”, or other new inquiries (or games) —even, or especially, when it is not part of our plan!  We hope to surprise our families and teachers that we mentor by posting learning stories like these on our website in the near future, to illustrate the vast number of core competencies land based learning has to offer.  

Mahsi to all of our Bushkids and their families for a wonderful year! We hope you continue to take care of yourselves, each other, and the land.