Stuck in the Middle: Tea for Two
We are in the second year of the new BC Curriculum. One of the areas of focus in this new curriculum is First Peoples’ content. As such, our staff has been regularly incorporating Indigenous cultural, content and teaching into their lessons.
Last week I walked into one of grade 6/7 multi-age classrooms and all the students were busy actively engaged tasting tea that has traditionally been used by the W̱SÁNEĆ people. Ecological knowledge about the diverse plants growing on this territory was crucial for the survival of First Peoples in the past. On this day, our students were learning this lesson.
As I entered the room, one student immediately handed me a Dixie Cup and started walking me around the room to all the tasting stations. Each tea sat in an individual container and students were reading about the ingredients and their properties before spooning a small amount into their glasses for drinking. At each station, I asked different students about the properties and then they served me a taste. After sipping Raspberry Leaf, Mint, Hawthorn, Lavender and Milk Thistle tea and learning how they were used for everything from being an anti-inflammatory and to an antioxidant, I arrived at Labrador Tea.
I had never heard of Labrador Tea, so I asked the young man, “Can you tell me a little bit about this tea before I taste it.”
His response was quick and full of enthusiasm, “This is a slightly poisonous tea that animals stay away from in the wild.”
I was speechless and pulled my cup back. He then said with a smile, “Would you like to try some?”
Now I have seen a lot of movies and shows where the principal is the butt of jokes and pranks, so I instinctively hesitated. I tried to buy some time to think. “Are you sure it says poisonous?”
He pointed to the sheet and reread out loud to me “slightly poisonous.” Of course, I did not have my glasses on to read the passage myself, but I trusted him.
So I responded like any conservative, cautious, slightly paranoid person would, “Why don’t you go first and I will see how you react.”
He smiled, poured tea into both our glasses and said, “It says to water it down and just have a small taste.”
I am a little like the Star Trek: The Next Generation Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Sir Patrick Stewart) and I find comfort in a cup of tea. But unlike the captain who orders his tea exactly the same way: "Earl Grey. Hot,” I have gone to ordering my tea as “Labrador, water downed.”
At North Saanich Middle School, students learn about Indigenous ways of knowing as they are embedded throughout the regular curriculum and at sometime during the year they might just have the opportunity to take comfort in a nice hot cup of tea.