A school garden not only helps students learn how to grow their own food but also teaches about our human responsibility within living systems, encourages participants to try new foods, and gets students outside.
Thanks to a grant from TD Friends of the Environment, Whycocomagh Education Centre added a new gravel floor in their school greenhouse and purchased shovels and trowels. Teacher Eryn Sinclair was a driving force behind the garden this year. She said,
“The biggest impact was the purchase of a healthy soil mixture and lots of lively compost in all greenhouse raised beds as well as the raised beds outside of the classrooms.”
Plants need sunlight, soil, and water to grow. Students in grades Primary to six planted seeds in the spring to grow tomatoes, kale, pumpkins, cucumbers, watermelons, and squash. Classrooms at WEC have large windows and wide window ledges, perfect locations for little seedlings to grow! Before leaving for the summer, students transplanted the seedlings into raised garden beds. Luckily, a summer student who worked for the local volunteer fire department helped water the school garden through the dry months of July and August. What a great way to involve the local community while teachers and students are away for the summer! Students also had the chance to volunteer with their families to water and weed the garden. Parent Leslie Googoo-Clark said that her son John insisted they visit the school on the weekends to water the plants.
When students returned to school at the beginning of September they were excited to see their garden flourishing and were keen to try some new foods. Cafeteria staff made kale chips for students to try from their abundant kale harvest. Some students liked the kale chips, but some found they tasted bitter. Anne Marie MacKinnon from the WEC cafeteria describes her recipe,
“I just washed them and diced them with oil. Then I baked them on a cookie sheet. I served the tomatoes and cut up the cucumbers. Some of the kids asked ‘What are these?’ I just said, ‘They are tomatoes. Try them.’ Some kids didn’t like the (kale) chips but they gave them a try. ”
Garden coordinator Betsy Jardine brought in a blender and served kale smoothies for staff on Student Services Day. Did you know kale is a ‘Super Food’ full of protein, fibre, vitamins, and folate? What a great brain boost for staff as they prepared for the arrival of students!
Being outside encourages students to learn through keen observation. Student Ethan MacDonald noticed some of the tomatoes he transplanted were not looking very healthy. They seemed to have been attacked by something. The unhappy tomato plants sparked his curiosity about different diseases and pests that affect tomato growth. Sounds like a good topic for a science project, Ethan!
Getting students outside has many other benefits, too. Not only do they have the opportunity to learn in a different way, but being in a different context outdoors also impacts their emotional well being. Betsy Jardine observed that:
“Nature just seems to have a very positive effect on children. The extra oxygen seems to revert their brains to a state of relaxation. It provides a welcome break from the classroom for all students. It is the grounds for inquiry learning.”
We couldn’t agree more!
Engagement Officer for Cape Breton