Students use art to express themselves following grass fire

By Ashley Wiebe
November 14, 2017 - 4:38pm Updated: November 14, 2017 - 7:16pm


MEDICINE HAT, AB — The snow has covered much of the land which was destroyed in a massive grass fire near Schuler last month.

It's a welcome sign of relief for the farmers and ranchers who lost thousands of hectares of land.

Everyone has had to find a different way of dealing with the loss and the pain.

Students at Schuler School are getting their thoughts and feelings out on paper.

“There’s so many new stories about that night that no one really knows about,” said Grade 9 student Emma Herselman.

Students and teachers are finding that a picture helps find the words which are hard to say out loud.

Students are slowly moving on after the grass fire which started on the afternoon of October 17th.

“I was sort of just thinking I just need to get out of where we were,” said Grade 7 student Caleb Driediger, remembering back to that night. “I wasn’t really thinking about where we should be going or anything. I was just sort of thinking that we need to get out.”

Teacher Jacquie Noerenberg wanted to help her students express how they felt in the days following the fire. She knew there was no better way than to put pencil to paper.

“I think writing about it is therapeutic. Drawing pictures about it is therapeutic,” she said. “The massiveness of it becomes something they almost can’t grasp, to how big it was, to how fast it was.”

“Some of the kids are still really experiencing that secondary trauma where they’re struggling,” said Carla Stern. “They hear a siren and they’re scared. They see a sunset and they’re scared it’s another fire.”

Noerenberg’s assignment helps show what the students saw and how they felt.

“It was really windy,” she said, holding Grade 1 student Zoey Selinger on her lap, reading over the words she’d written a few weeks ago. “And then you wrote ‘it was very big and the fire was so big that fire was everywhere’.”

“I wrote that I was scared and that I could see the fire in the distance and that we packed just in case and that my dad was out with the fire,” said Kimberley Straub, a Grade 2 student.

Driediger’s drawing covered the entire piece of paper. He used a black crayon to colour over the page, leaving one spot red and orange, meant to represent the fire in contrast to everything it had burnt.

“This is the second flare up that we could see in the distance and really all we could see was the big glow,” he said, pointing to the red glitter he’d used to highlight an area above the fire.

“They went through a lot,” Stern added. “They actually really thought some of their parents were not coming back or were in danger. They themselves saw how close the fires were.”

Stern and other staff members continue to make themselves available for students, if they ever need to talk.

“By no means is this over for a lot of the kids,” she said.

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