Then & Now Edukit: How did kids play differently at Mill Lake?

Self-guided activity for students under adult supervision

Figure 1. Aerial image of Mill Lake and Park.


Step outside and go on an adventure back in time! In this walking tour activity, discover how kids in history used to play by visiting four special locations around Abbotsford’s Mill Lake, also known as Lekw’óqwem (pronounced Le kwa kwem). This lesson plan combines place-based learning methods with historical photographs from The Reach Gallery Museum archive and content from our permanent museum exhibition Voices of the Valley. The activity focuses on how children played around the lake according to firstperson observations from Margaret (Hutchison) Weir who lived in Abbotsford from 1912 to 1998.

This Edukit uses Historical Thinking Concepts to encourage participants to use primary resources and to develop historical literacy.

This activity is designed for elementary school students grade 3 – 5.


PLEASE NOTE: For this activity, we recommend partnering an adult with a student from the same household that is already practicing social distancing together. When the City of Abbotsford Parks are open, public members using Parks are encouraged to follow safe health practices while using them including social distancing. For a full list of safe health practices and other resources please visit the Public Health Website.


This activity was designed to with the Placed-Based Learning teaching methodology in mind and also fulfills Curricular Competencies in BC’s New Curriculum for the following subjects and classes:

  • Social Studies 3, 4, 5
  • English Language Arts 3, 4, 5
  • Science 3, 4

To see relevant connections between this activity and BC’s New Curriculum, see downloadable PDF “Placed-Based Learning and Curricular Competencies Related to Then & Now Edukit: How did kids play differently at Mill Lake?”

Figure 2. Boys swimming in Mill Lake, 1921. Catalogue no. P3483, The Reach Gallery Museum archive.


Through this project participants will:

  • Explore connections to identity, place, culture, and belonging.
  • Relate to personal stories about Mill Lake from first-person accounts.
  • Develop empathy for people in the past while discovering local history through place-based learning.
  • Connect with Mill Lake’s history by taking the history walking tour walking the 1.3 km Mill Lake Loop to integrate learned knowledge with students’ lived experience.


  • A PDF-viewing application, such as Adobe Acrobat, installed on your computer.
  • A downloaded or printed copy of our PDF map called “Mill Lake Then & Now Walking Tour: How did kids play differently at Mill Lake?”




Historical | history | mill | sawmill | lumber mill


The Reach Gallery Museum acknowledges that the City of Abbotsford is located on S’olh Temexw. [pronounced: suh-oll TUMM ook]

S’olh Temexw is the unceded, traditional, ancestral shared territory of the Semá:th First Nation and Mathekwi First Nation. These two First Nations are part of the Stό:lō Nation, the People of the River. The Stό:lō people have occupied this territory for more than 10,000 years. It is for this reason that we acknowledge the traditional territory in which we reside.

What is Halq’eméylem, and why do we use Halq’eméylem names?

Halq’eméylem (anglicized to Halkomelem) is one of several related languages spoken by Coast Salish peoples. We use Halq’eméylem names as a way of paying tribute to the living history of the Stό:lō Nation and their relationship to the land that precedes the settlement of Europeans. For more information, check out

Figure 3. Voices of the Valley permanent museum exhibition.


Figure 4. Voices of the Valley.


Voices of the Valley is the permanent museum exhibition at The Reach Gallery Museum that illustrates aspects of Abbotsford’s history through the use of primary source materials to reflect interconnected themes that have impacted community development.

The exhibition uses primary source documents to present information about the people, events, opinions, and viewpoints that have shaped our present-day community. It reflects broad themes that significantly impacted our community since the time of settler colonization. Interconnected themes: First Nations, Survey and Settlement, Forestry, Brickmaking, Sumas Lake Drainage, Agriculture, Transportation and Economy history narratives presented through objects, photographs and oral history content identify important interconnected concepts, and remind us that multiple factors have influenced growth and change in our community as we see it today.

This activity expands on the Forestry section of the exhibition that includes artifacts from Mill Lake, including shingles that were produced on the shores of the lake.


Where is Mill Lake?

The area commonly known as Mill Lake is known to the Stό:lō as Lekw’óqwem (pronounced Le kwa kwem). Its original Halq’em.ylem name describes the lake’s tendency to “dry up at times but come back again.”* Mill Lake is located in the City of Abbotsford. It is surrounded by huge trees, and is home to many creatures including ducks, bald eagles and western painted turtles. In the past, children and their families would gather on the shores of the lake to spend time together and to have some fun!

What does it mean if something is historical? Why is history important to us?

If a person, event, or thing is called historical, it means that it is part of the past. This means that history is a story about the past.

Do you ever wish you could go back in time? Learning about history is like stepping into a time machine. When we take time to see how people lived their lives 50 years ago, 100 years ago, or 1,000 years ago, we can compare things that have changed or stayed the same.

For example, people 50 years ago, 100 years ago, and 1,000 years ago all ate food to live but they may have eaten different foods than you do based on what was available to them during those time periods. It’s important to learn about people and places in history because it reminds us about the ways we are similar and the ways that we are different from the people who lived before us. We can learn from people in history.


* “Lekw’óqwem,” in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas edited by Keith Thor Carlson, Colin Duffield, Albert “Sonny” McHalsie, Leeanna Lynn Rhodes, David M. Schaepe, David A. Smith (Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre; Seattle: University of Washington Press; Chilliwack: St.:lō, 2001), 142.

Figure 5. Drozda family of North Burnaby, enjoying the camping facilities at Mill Lake. Mr. Drozda prepares to take his sons fishing. 1958. Catalogue no. P6200, The Reach Gallery Museum archive.

Figure 6. Full figure portrait of Margaret Hutchison (maiden name). Margaret came to live in Abbotsford at the age of 12 and lived here all of her 98 year long life. Catalogue image no. P11702, The Reach Gallery Museum archive.

Who is Margaret (Hutchison) Weir and what can she teach us about how children used to play around Mill Lake?

Margaret (Hutchison) Weir lived in the historic Village of Abbotsford from 1912 to 1998. Margaret came to Abbotsford when she was 12 years old. She lived in downtown Abbotsford and she shares about the changes that occurred over her lifetime as roads were paved and the village grew. Margaret kept a journal where she recorded her memories and stories to share with you, a future history detective.

Margaret experienced what Mill Lake was like when it was home to the Abbotsford Lumber Company and she refers to it as “the mill” in her journals. The mill was a sawmill or lumber mill that was located on the shores of the lake and transformed trees that had been cut down into wood that could be used to make furniture or shingles to make a roof.

If you stood by the lake in Margaret’s lifetime, the area around the lake would have sounded and looked different from what you hear and see today. This mill used a lot of machinery and would have sounded very noisy. The lake would have been covered with floating cedar trees that had been cut down. The oil from the cedar trees processed by the mill would have seeped into the lake water. Margaret remembers children swimming in this busy lake, and you can read about this on Stop 4 of the walking tour map!

Figure 7. Abbotsford Timber and Trading Company train, loaded with logs. On front of the image is written: “Logging Train of
Abbotsford Timber & Trading Co. Ltd. Abbotsford, BC. October 1915.” Catalogue no. P5698, The Reach Gallery Museum archive.

  1. Download our PDF of the “Mill Lake Then & Now Walking Tour: How did kids play differently at Mill Lake?” Print out a copy for yourself or view the walking tour from the PDF on your phone.
  2. Visit Mill Lake Park and walk the 1.3km Mill Lake Loop, while practicing social distancing from others. Adults and students taking part in this activity together should be in the same household. Note the four stops (Playing, Swimming, Learning, and Fishing) on the map and read about how kids had fun when Margaret was a girl. Don’t forget to compare the historical pictures included on the map with the places you visit!
  3. Along the route use map’s historical “Then” Images to orient yourself to the history presented in the tour.
  4. Take your picture of your favourite place to play along the walk and share your experience with your social media following. Don’t forget to tag us on Instagram (@thereachgallery) and Twitter (@TheReach) and use the hashtags #thenandnow and #voicesofthevalley.

Figure 8. Margaret’s brother, Norman Hutchison, diving into Mill Lake. Sawmill in the background. 1918. Catalogue no. P6816, The Reach Gallery Museum archive.


If you aren’t able to actually visit Mill Lake Park to participate in a self-guided walking tour right now, use Google Maps to discover the locations and compare historical photographs on the downloadable map with contemporary places.

View Mill Lake and the surrounding area virtually as a way of preparing for when you can actually visit in-person. Click on this link to view Mill Lake and Park map.


  1. As you walk around the lake, think about what you smell and hear at each of the locations. To help you concentrate, close your eyes and focus on what you can smell and hear when it’s safe to do so. Do you notice anything different about this place that you didn’t notice before?
  2. Mill Lake Park now has playground equipment and a waterpark for kids, but for many years children didn’t have special equipment. In the past, Margaret and her friends made up their own fun like going fishing or swimming! If you could step into a time machine and go back what games would you play? Would you teach Margaret to play any games from the future?


  1. Where is your favourite place to play? Why is it important to you? Draw a map of your four favourite places to play and put it in a place for future history detectives to find!



Download a PDF of the walking tour (1.3MB)

Download a PDF of this Edukit (8MB)

Download a PDF of the Place-based Learning and Curricular Competencies (77KB)


If you use this free resource with your students at school / at home, we’d love to hear from you! Send an email to Diana Hiebert (Curator of Learning and Community Engagement at The Reach) at, with your comments including the number and age range of participants. This statistical information is important to us as a not-for-profit organization and will allow us to continue offering this kind of content.