The University of British Columbia introduced a new component to their Bachelor of Education program in September 2012 called the Community Based Field Experience (or Enhanced) practicum. The enhanced practicum is intended to expand the UBC teacher candidates knowledge of alternative educational settings.
I completed my enhanced practicum at the Burns Bog Conservation Society. The conservation society aims to educate students about the importance of protecting Burns Bog, and the environmental impact that would occur should the bog cease to exist. During my time at the bog, I conducted tours for elementary students on field trips and educated them about the animals and plants that make their home at Burns Bog and its history. During these tours, I adapted to a new curriculum – Biology instead of English – and a new grade level.
However, I believe that my time with the Burns Bog Conservation Society was well-spent because I learned the importance of stepping outside one’s comfort zone – essential the same risk that we ask our students to take in a classroom whenever they share their work or thoughts.
However, when I was not conducting tours of the bog, I was at the Burns Bog Conservation Society’s headquarters in Delta interacting with parents inquiring about the day camps or brainstorming ways to promote the eco-sustainability message of the conservation society.
Luckily, I also had a chance to engage in some creative writing while volunteering with the conservation society and wrote a children’s short story about the legend of Burnice, the Bog Dragon:
How to Find a Bog Dragon
Most dragons will tell you that they are very smart – and this is probably true, which is why it takes a very special type of person to find one.
The most elusive of dragons is a Bog Dragon. These dragons are fierce and can grow as large as a yellow school bus. One might be forgiven for thinking that something so large would be easy to spot; however, the Bog Dragon has the ability to camouflage itself. That is, the Bog Dragon can change the colour of its scales to match its surroundings.
In the Burns Bog, there is one such dragon. It was discovered years ago by a young Bogateer named Flora, who was walking through the Delta Nature Reserve…
It was a warm, summer morning. The sun was shining through the canopy of trees overhead, as Flora walked across the wooden boardwalk. Dressed in plain shorts and a t-shirt, Flora let the summer breeze play with the dark curls of her hair, as she walked deeper into the bog.
Her father was sitting by the creek, silently reading his book.
Flora crinkled her nose as she approached the Skunk Cabbage Meadows. The heat in the air was making the smell of the stinky skunk cabbage stronger than usual.
A carefree breeze lifted the leaves of a nearby salal bush, shifting them slightly to the left. Flora, who happened to be glancing in their direction, noticed something strange. At first, she thought it was a trick of the light, but as another breeze blew softly through the plant, the leaves moved again.
And then, she saw it again!
In front of Flora, floating in midair was a patch of green that did not belong. As she got closer, Flora traced the outline of green with her eyes and noticed that they formed the shape of a scale – much like a fish’s scale but larger.
The scale was larger than her hand, with faint lines that reminded Flora of tree bark.
Fascinated, Flora reached out to touch the scale but, before the tips of her fingers could brush the edge, the scale moved out of reach.
And the entire bog shifted before her eyes. What before had been a single scale the colour of salal leaves, now changed into a rainbow of colours. Blues, violets, and reds flashed before her eyes – glinting in the sunlight like jewels in the hands of a pirate.
Standing over seven feet tall, towering over Flora, was a dragon! Or at least, Flora assumed it was a dragon – she didn’t know for certain since she had never seen one before.
However, the creature certainly looked like a dragon from one of her storybooks. It had clawed feet and talons and its large body was covered in multi-coloured scales that changed colour with the wind. Stretching from its back were wings that seemed to span the entire canopy, hiding the sun.
The dragon looked down at Flora through cat-like eyes.
“I’m sorry.” The words tumbled out of Flora.
“You woke me up,” said the dragon, as calm as could be. When it opened its mouth to give a great yawn, Flora saw a mouthful of sharp teeth like the canines of a dog.
“You can talk?”
Flora could have smacked her head with her hand. Of course it can talk Flora, she thought, it just spoke to you didn’t it?
But that was just it. Flora was having trouble believing her own hears – not to mention her eyes – so at this moment she wasn’t sure of anything.
So Flora did what she had been taught to do when confused – ask questions.
In response to Flora’s question, the dragon snorted. Laughter sparkling in it eyes.
“Yes, I can talk. It came in handy for mocking the Vikings after we stole their fish.”
“You’ve seen Vikings?” Flora asked in astonishment. “How old are you?”
“Old enough,” said the dragon, laying its massive head on its talons. “A lady never discusses her age, you know.”
“You’re a girl dragon?! What’s your name?”
“Hello Burnice, my name is –”
Flora tilted her head in the direction of the shout. It was her dad’s voice. It must be time to go home, but Flora was reluctant to leave her new friend.
“Flora, hurry! It’s time for lunch. We’re having grilled cheese sandwiches.”
Flora’s stomach growled at the mention of grilled cheese, demanding to be fed.
Flora turned to say goodbye to Burnice, only to discover that the dragon had disappeared.
“Goodbye, Burnice,” Flora whispered anyway. “I hope we meet again.”
The breeze shifted the salal bushes again, but Flora did not see anything out of place this time. But Flora knew that if she walked through the Bog quietly, with watchful eyes, she might see her friend Burnice again on another summer day.