For the past two weeks, the garden courtyard outside Oaklands Elementary has buzzed with chatter and creativity as a group of 20 students worked to craft necklaces from arbutus berries to raise money for a Saanich child injured in a vehicle collision.
On Friday, Dec. 4, as the morning sun began to melt the frost, the Grade 4 and 5 students from Division 5 crowded into the garden and got right to work stringing the orange and red berries into long necklaces to be sold for $5 on the school’s website.
Vice Principal Amei Mai, who teaches Outdoor Education to students in all grades, came up with the idea to raise money by selling necklaces after hearing about Leila Bui, who was struck by the driver of an SUV while crossing the street on Dec. 20, 2017. Bui, who was 11 at the time, was thrown several metres and sustained serious head injuries. She continues to require constant care as she uses a wheelchair and remains non-responsive.
Mai was moved by Leila’s story and wanted to find a way for students to “reach out beyond the classroom” and show support for the young girl’s family. She collected the arbutus berries on Salt Spring Island and in Beacon Hill Park and the school’s younger students worked to pluck them from the branches so the older children could bead them into long necklaces.
The Grade 4 and 5 students have been “beading in the rain, beading in the garden, beading in the classroom,” for a couple of weeks, Mai said. She noted that the project has not only been an exercise in community-building and social justice, but an opportunity for the students to learn sewing skills because many didn’t know how to tie knots or use a needle.
“We’re selling the necklaces to raise money for [Leila] and her family,” said Grade 4 student Autumn Bush, noting that Leila was injured on her way to school and now needs expensive equipment.
The necklaces aren’t too difficult to make, said fellow fourth-grader Lily Willis. “Once you get used to it, it’s easy,” she said, adding that it only takes about 15 minutes to make one.
“We use a needle and thread and there are different colours of thread,” Autumn said.
The class had made 20 necklaces by Dec. 4 – the first day of the sale. The necklaces can be purchased for $5 each at oaklands.sd61.bc.ca.
Mai hopes to invite Leila and her family to the school to give them the funds once all the necklaces have sold. She joked that the school’s next jewelry-making project may be bracelets instead because the necklaces took a long time to make.