Mountain View, Alberta
Please describe your garden, is it raised beds, in the ground, do you have a greenhouse?
Our project has grown tremendously! When we were in the initial stages of planning with the students, we figured we would be able to get a few beds built and a small garden. This small idea has turned into a much larger project, this is in thanks to your grant at Inside Education and provided by Nutrients 4 Life! Covid threw us many curve balls this year but we remained persistent with our plan. Once we had our plan and were awarded the grant, we got to work developing a plan around a school garden. We proposed our ideas to the community at an outdoor agriculture meeting at our school. We wanted the community to visualize with us the potential garden we had in mind. Community members came and immediately caught the student's vision. We had a family volunteer to design and build the raised beds for us! They are avid gardeners themselves and have a plethora of experience in this area. They built us 16 4X8 raised beds and installed them into a side hill at our agriculture park! We were able to get them installed over the Easter break this year and after coming back from online learning the students helped fill and prep the beds. Students took charge of prepping the garden beds, learning about proper soil and gardening techniques. We had a group of students in charge of budgeting and ordering all of the seeds. Each grade in our school has a designated bed. The remaining beds were designated for our garden option class we run at the middle school level. In order to buy the seeds, the students looked and researched different planting processes. We had a guest speaker come in and speak to us about "square foot" gardening. So, students decided to plant in two different ways, the traditional rows, and the square foot method. This allowed them to determine the number of seeds they would need for all of the beds. Students wanted some crop for themselves to be able to harvest when we got back to school so they planted a fair amount of carrots, potatoes, and other things that could be harvested in early September when they come back. After students ordered the seeds, we were able to plant the entirety of our garden two weeks before students went home. We currently have students signed up that take turns coming to the school after hours and on weekends to help water. We also have a system in place for students to bring their families during the week to tend to the beds and watch over them. We have been extremely lucky this year and pushed through multiple COVID instances and were able to get our project completed and have the students lead out in the majority of the process. Each student had various jobs (planning,journalling, weeding, planting, building, etc.) Planting gardens has had a major impact on all students in every grade. We are trying to start an agriculture program here at our school and the garden is an essential piece to that program. Students have spent weeks learning about different vegetables and varieties that grow best in our zones here in Mountain View. They have learned how valuable the soil is and where the plants go to get their nutrients. They have become more conscious and aware of their choice of food. We started many vegetables inside before moving them out, so they took responsibility and care for the plants before we even got them out to the garden beds. Students learned the hard work that goes into growing a garden and in turn have a better relationship with their food and where it comes from. Students have also learned the value of budgeting and why that is so important when doing projects such as this. We had many math lessons revolving around square footage and how many plants we could fit into a square foot. We as teachers were able to weave aspects of the garden bed project into our lessons, it goes hand in hand with Alberta curriculum.
What are your future plans for the school garden?
Our next steps are to have the students maintain and tend to the garden over the summer and to take some of the produce for themselves so they can see the results of all their hard work! Our ultimate goal is to have our garden beds as well as a green house where we can grow even more types of vegetables and flowers, this would allow us to grow more of a variety and protect some of our crop from the harsh weather we can experience out our way at times. Our school this upcoming year is also implementing different "jobs" where students manage a certain part of our agriculture program. We have a steer boss/committee, poultry boss/committee, etc. We do not have a garden position yet, but we are looking to continue to build our garden portion so in the future we can offer this position to students. The possibilities of our program are endless, and we have countless projects that STUDENTS have come up with. We are simply trying to find funding for these incredible projects they have come up with. We have students looking into growing progressive bee gardens to feed our bees better, we have a student passionate about growing barley fodder to feed our chickens, we have students that want to start a compost worm farm and take all the compost from the school, allow the worms to work their way through and provide rich nutrient soaked soil for our garden beds next year. The list goes on and on with our next steps. Ultimately though it is to continue to grow our garden program bigger and bigger every year. We are looking at harvesting our cucumbers, carrots, etc. when the students come back in September and offering a weeklong course revolving around preserving food (canning) so we can provide our school with food for its hot lunch program.
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