A bus load of students from Thomas Haney Secondary visited a First Nation band near Lytton and the landfill in Cache Creek during a three-day field trip. One student recounts their experience. (THS Instagram/Special to The News)

A bus load of students from Thomas Haney Secondary visited a First Nation band near Lytton and the landfill in Cache Creek during a three-day field trip. One student recounts their experience. (THS Instagram/Special to The News)

51 Maple Ridge teens explore landfill and First Nation village

Grade 11 students from Thomas Haney Secondary take three-day field trip to Lytton and Cache Creek

By /Special to The News

Yes, they really went on a field trip to a landfill!

The Connections 11 students from Thomas Haney Secondary took on Cache Creek and Whistler recently on a three-day field trip where they visited various sites of historical, economic, and cultural significance and explored issues related to the local history and ecology of these regions.

Accompanied by their brave and dedicated teachers Chris Connolly, Todd Goodman, Mark Biggar, Jennifer Godfrey, and Daniel Grill – and an amazingly patient bus driver named Peter – the group made several stops on their journey. When on a road trip with 51 teenagers, you need a lot of breaks!

On their way to Cache Creek, the group first travelled to the Kanaka Bar Band reserve, just a few kilometres south of the Lytton townsite. They were fortunate to have been invited to visit the land and see the work the First Nation have done to become energy independent and leaders in building a sustainable community. Sustainability improves the quality of the life of everyone and everything on this planet and protects our ecosystem.

Also known as the “T’eqt”aqtn’mux,” which translates to “the crossing place people,” their Chief Patrick Michell welcomed them in their new community building, which is powered by solar with battery storage.

Chief Michell gave an engaging presentation about what the Kanaka Bar Band is doing to help protect themselves and Lytton against the effects of climate change and what alternate materials could be used to build houses that will be able to withstand extreme weather, such as the fires and floods B.C. recently endured.

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The Kanaka Bar Band has four criteria to take into accord when choosing these materials: fire/water/wind resiliency, energy efficiency, long-term sustainability and affordability.

After the town of Lytton was destroyed in the summer 2021 fires, Chief Michell and the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology launched a pilot project on creating climate-resilient houses for the evacuees who lost their homes.

Chief Michell said, “We are delighted to bring together leaders in applied research and innovation to tackle the urgent need to build back our region. We are combining the power of our community with the latest building practices to ensure new housing and its supporting systems, as well as older buildings in the region, are made more sustainable and climate-resilient.”

This project is not only for the Kanaka Bar Band and the people of Lytton, but for all Canadian residents who want to make sure their homes can withstand the extreme weather that climate change is bringing to Canada.

After Chief Michell’s presentation, the group split into two and explored the land.

The students met the animals the Kanaka Bar Band harvests, examined the strategically-placed solar panels that power the community, and walked through the gardens in which the band grows their vegetables. The one beehive that is on the reserve not only produces honey to eat, but also creates wax that can be used for such things as candles.

In March of 2016, the Kanaka Bar Community Economic Development Plan was released, outlining the goals and plans for the future of their community. Since then, the band has been working toward their goal of having enough food resources for their entire community, especially in times of emergency.

The band has engaged in a partnership for the operation of a significant run of the river project at nearby Kwoiek Creek.

The students of Thomas Haney had the opportunity to see these food resources firsthand and were greatly inspired!

Many Thomas Haney students have engaged in the creation of an orchard at the school. Many ideas from the Kanaka Bar Band visit could be implemented there. Please visit the Kanaka Bar Band website for more information about the work they are doing.

After an exciting night hike in the hills of Cache Creek and a restful sleep, the class drove to the main event of the field trip: the Campbell Hill landfill.

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They were greeted by the general manager Zahra Pirani and the field engineer Melissa Davies.

The two were happy to give them an escorted drive up to the top of the landfill to the new cell they are creating.

What the group saw really broke down their preconception of what a landfill would look like; they stood on 25-metres of garbage, and yet there was no smell and only a very small pile of garbage that would soon be compressed.

To prevent anything from leaching into the ground and into the surrounding environment, the WasteTech company uses a “liner system” every five metres that have fourteen layers of the processed material. The liner itself is composed of two different layers, starting with a high-density polyethylene (HDPE) with a geosynthetic clay liner (GCL), which is double the standard of the BC Ministry of Environments.

This captures methane from older landfills and produces it into electricity that feeds to BC Hydro.

The team of workers are constantly pulling out things that do not belong in the landfill, such as appliances, recyclables, and in one case, 75,0000 golf balls.

The property is surrounded by animal patrol fences to keep wildlife out, but there were various types of birds flying above that everyone was naturally distracted by.

Though going to a landfill may be slightly unconventional, it was a memorable and educational day.

The visit to the Kanaka Bar Band, as well as to the landfill, highlighted the importance of how we manage and consume our resources.

The group’s circle route took them from the desert-like conditions of Cache Creek, to the tops of mountains near Duffy Lake and, finally, to the edge of the sea at Porteau Cove.

A big thank you goes to the communities and businesses that welcomed their packed tour bus throughout their journey. From the coffee shops and diners, to the hotels and museums, everyone welcomed them with warmth.

A special thanks also goes to those at the Kanaka Bar Band and the Campbell Hill landfill for taking the time to engage with them on a very personal level.

And of course, the students are grateful to their own teachers that dedicated a tremendous amount of work and their personal time to make the trip possible.

– Kiarra Serra is a Grade 11 student at Thomas Haney Secondary

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