Nutrients for Life undertakes a variety of projects related to soil science and agricultural sustainability.
In 2010, Nutrients for Life launched a pilot project to improve its connection with Canada’s classrooms. We teamed with two Teacher Ambassadors in Manitoba; both are teachers who actively use Nutrients for Life learning materials. One is located in a rural area of Manitoba, the other in an urban setting. Given their knowledge of the materials, and their experience putting it to work, the teachers will provide valuable pedagogical insight to help refine content and make it as meaningful as possible to students. Working with them, we are able to gauge the needs of educators, receive input and feedback on our resources, and establish linkages between our resources and the curriculum.
The pilot project in Manitoba will help guide the foundation’s efforts to establish more direct classroom connections right across the country; we are already planning to expand the Teacher Ambassador program to two more Provinces!
Canada Agricutlure Museum Partnership:
In November 2012, Nutrients for Life and the Canada Agriculture Museum signed a Memorandum of Understanding that formalized the collaboration in the area of the development and distribution of educational and integrative material to the Canadian public in general, on matters of agriculture, gardening, soil science and agricultural sustainability. Over 170,000 visitors come to the Museum annually – this is a perfect opportunity to teach visitors about the 13 essential nutrients that are found in soil, and the three most important to soil health and food production - Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K). This partnership will also include the development of a hydroponic and living wall lab for educational programs in the Canada Agriculture Museum learning labs – another way to educate youth on the importance of plant nutrients in the soils. In 2013, this partnership will start to build the foundation on educating youth on how to feed a population of nine billion by 2050 and the innovative processes that modern agriculture is undertaking to make sure enough food will be produced for this population.
School Garden Network: www.schoolgardennetwork.ca
Community and school gardens are popping up across Canada. Nutrients for Life plans to showcase and connect school gardens across Canada on its website. We will also provide a variety of resources to help teachers plan and build plots that contribute to better student understanding of soil science. Students will be encouraged to post photos and videos of their gardens and share project ideas and findings.
The School Garden Network (www.schoolgardennetwork.ca) will be a clearinghouse for information on school gardens, best practices, links to the curriculum and expert advice about the mechanics of building and maintaining a school garden. It will showcase existing programs to ensure schools can share information and access resources and blueprints. It will also serve as a catalyst to encourage students and teachers to get their own gardens growing, connecting them with community partners and industry leaders.
Key elements of the website are:
- A step-by-step, downloadable blueprint to start and maintain a garden, based on a school’s location and the input of schools across Canada. Along with an online forum for teachers to exchange best practices and lessons.
- Curriculum-based teacher mentoring tools, such as exercises, study aids and essay tie-ins. Teachers can use these resources as guides or bring them directly into the classroom – with the support of Teacher Ambassadors.
- A resource centre, which will provide comprehensive, easy-to-use links to community organizations that can help build gardens, either through advice, funding, volunteer support or in-kind donations.
- Downloadable expert videos on topics such as nutrition and soil science.
- An interactive showcase of successful school gardens across the country, including a social media component.
There are many benefits to placing gardens within the school environment.
Gardens provide experiential learning that ties into existing curriculum subjects such as chemistry, biology, math, social studies, history and English. Gardening brings these subjects to life, especially science, and helps students discover how they fit together. School gardens can help put the science back into environmental education.
Through the School Garden Initiative, students and teachers can connect with other communities, share ideas and experiences and work together to learn and grow. It will nurture engaged citizens, who truly understand the impact of food security and global issues through effective, experiential science learning opportunities. Tending to a garden illustrates the connection between sustainable agriculture and the food people eat.
This initiative will help young people succeed in school and in life. It will improve the health of our youth with food knowledge and build healthy, green communities.
Learning gardens will showcase various types of gardens, highlight best practices and be central and highly visible in their communities. They will be used to host workshops and hands-on sessions led by educators and specialists. Learning Gardens will also provide gardening opportunities, facilities and educational resources for schools that are unable to house a garden, due to space restriction or location.
In December 2012, NFL finalized a partnership with Canadian Feed the Children to produce four learning gardens in 2013. The four learning gardens will allow Canadian Feed the Children to help improve the nutritional health of students living in at-risk communities through soil education, increased food knowledge and active participation in growing nutritious foods. A learning garden, paired with a commercially available soil testing kit, allows educators and students to take part in science-based discussions of plant nutrients. Soil test kits support science education in the learning gardens by collecting soil samples from these gardens and testing nutrient availability.
School twinning within Canada and around the world will encourage students to develop an enriched understanding of how climate, soil, and economic realities impact the challenge of global food security.