Innovative Ideas for School Gardens

The number of school gardens are increasing each year. People are realizing how gardens can not only be an effective teaching tool to promote healthy lifestyles, but can be used to fulfill many other curriculum outcomes. A simple Google search will confirm that the teaching opportunities with gardens are seemingly endless. Here in Nova Scotia, some school have are using their garden as a spring board, to do some pretty cool stuff. Take a look…

Gardens: a tool for advocacy

Chedabucto Education Centre/Guysborough Academy

What started with a school garden in 2010 has grown into a multi-faceted food security project.  This junior and senior high school located in rural Guysborough County, has formed many partnerships (with the local, Waste Management, the Municipality, Youth Health & Services Centre, Public Health Services to name a few) that have allowed them to expand their garden, hold a school wide harvest meal and, most recently pull off a youth food security symposium. Not bad, eh?!

Last spring, students organized a symposium which focused on community food security issues. One hundred students, from 14 schools, were brought together to talk about the challenges they face and solutions their communities have come up with to increase access to good, healthy, local food. Creating a greater awareness of the importance of community food security is of up-most importance says School Public Health nurse, Leona Purcell. “Even in a rural area, there’s not a sense of where food comes from anymore.” And she’s not the only one who thinks so; in recognition of the organization of the food security symposium, the Guysborough school was awarded the Jack Layton award for Youth Action in Sustainability.

Gardening is the business

Middle River Consolidated School

At first glance, this school already has a unique teaching situation. Located on the Cabot Trail, the school has 24 students, split between two classrooms. For the last few years, the Grade 3-6 class has taken the duty of planning the garden. This involves not only selecting what will be grown but how they will market it. For teacher Donna Mulley, it’s important that her students are involved in every step of the decision making process. In doing so, they’ve been learning how to effectively work together as a team and the basics of running a business. And it’s this action of fostering a sense of entrepreneurship that have been earning them some big time press. In past years, the middle river crew has sold their produce at the local farmers market, made and sold pickles (value added, nice!), and made sales to a nearby café. This year, they’re planning an onsite market of their own.

Food; from field to fork

Dr. Arthur Hines Elementary School

Back in 2004, this rural school located in Summerville, created a garden with the idea to not only make sure that their students learned where food came from but also that they learn the kitchen skills necessary to use this food. Like many school gardens, students from p-6 get the chance to plant a different vegetable crop each year. What they were able to do with this food is what makes this school special. Vegetables from the garden are used in the healthy lunch program, with grade 6 students taking turns in the kitchen to create nutritious meals for sale to students and staff. “The children are learning skills in the garden and kitchen,” says Kathy Aldous (former program coordinator), “these are skills that are being lost in this modern world of two-income families and convenient supermarkets”. This school garden project was so innovative they got their very own movie.

Garden; part of the community

St. Catherine’s Elementary School IMG_0679

Located in Halifax’s west end, St. Catherine’s elementary school garden is perhaps one of the oldest school garden in the HRM. Started over 10 years ago, the key to this garden has been it’s integration  into the school community.  Seed starting and garden planting has become part of the school’s spring routines. A thriving parent committee supports this process and helps maintains the garden in the summer. On summer evenings, families gather for Weeding Wednesday, sometimes bringing food for a potluch. Parents socialize, while working in the garden, kids help/play. It has become a community gathering spot. In the fall, the grade 5s with guidance from a local chef, use the harvest from the garden to prepare a harvest meal for the school.

Is your school doing something innovative with your garden? Tell us about it!

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