Holiday craft making unites local ecosystem science and invasive species knowledge in classrooms this December 

Nesika Elementary School students creating holiday decorations

By Jen Hegan | November 28th, 2022

Beautiful evergreen plants are starting to show up across B.C. and now is a good time to have a closer look (and feel and smell!) at our local native and non-native evergreen plants with ties to holiday decorating. 

Sights of English holly (Ilex aquifolium) and English ivy (Hedera helix) may get us humming cheery Christmas carols, but unfortunately these  introduced invasive plants  are quickly crowding out native plants in BC. While it is popular to use these and other invasive plants such as Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius) and Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) to make natural holiday decorations, there are ‘two sides to every coin’, making this an excellent educational theme for students leading up to the holidays.  

Collecting and creating holiday crafts, using either native or invasive plant materials,  combines Arts Education curriculum with inquiry questions such as: What are evergreen plants? Which introduced species grow in my community and how do they spread? How can I use plants to make art? How are native plants used currently and historically by First Nations?  

Harvesting Holly, Ivy, and other invasive species in your area certainly helps to remove these aggressive plants, but there are important criteria and responsibilities to consider when using them in order to prevent their spread. For example: 

  1. When harvesting, collect and bag all the plant pieces including berries and stems,  
  2. After craft making, bag and dispose of all extra plant material in the garbage to be sure they do not spread into new natural spaces, and  
  3. At the end of the holiday season, bag your decoration and dispose in the garbage.  

Check out this news story for classroom inspiration: Invasive plants make wreaths, and money, for Saanich, B.C., students | CBC News 

If you’d like to avoid using invasives in crafts altogether, evergreen native plants are a great, environmentally friendly option. Examples of native BC species that can become beautiful decorations include Oregon grape (Berberis spp.) ,  Red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa), Salal (Gaultheria shallon), Kinnickinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) , and Cedar, Hemlock, and Fir tree boughs. Harvesting native plants comes with its own set of responsibilities. It is important to practice selective harvesting to not adversely impact the plants and surrounding vegetation. Check out this story from a Williams Lake school: Nesika School Decks the Halls with Oregon Grape

Invasive-free holiday décor created with native plants
Nesika Elementary student showing off their holiday décor

After creating your holiday decorations, continue the fun with another engaging plant activity developed by the Invasive-Wise Education program: Painting With Invasives

To learn more about both native and invasive plants in your area, and ideas on how to incorporate invasive species education into your teaching plans, contact an Invasive-Wise Education Facilitator at  [email protected]. You can also sign up for the Invasive-Wise Education program and check out many more hands-on activities for students here.


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