Please describe your garden, is it raised beds, in the ground, do you have a greenhouse?
We have a garden in our outdoor classroom (students in Grades 3,4,5, and 6 are responsible), raised beds (each classroom is responsible for one) and a greenhouse.
What vegetables/fruit do you grow in your garden? What do you have a difficult time growing in your school garden?
Each class created a greenhouse/garden project of their own based on the interest of the children. Some of the items grown were herbs, tomatoes, pumpkins, marigolds, petunias, zinnias, 4 o'clocks, cabbage, and peppers.
We were surprised how well all of the plants grew in the greenhouse!!! We had an excess amount of flowers and had to give some away to families!
School garden: potatoes, zucchini, carrots, beets, onions, pumpkins, squash
Garden boxes: each class plants what they want each year (it is usually different). We struggle with potato bugs in our school garden. Portulaca has also invaded our raised beds.
Why did your school decide to add a school garden?
At Macdonald School, we have been working to build outdoor spaces for children to learn in and about. We built 5 wicking bed container gardens the year prior and wanted to deepen our knowledge and growing season by building a greenhouse!
To influence and develop the school and community culture. Students should understand the natural growth of plants. They learn first-hand the connection between nature, their own food supply, and the pollinators and other creatures the garden ecosystem attracts and supports. Allows the students ample opportunity to be outside. It teaches responsibility. Many curriculum outcomes can be covered, in this real life opportunity.
What classes participate in the garden, what subjects are taught in the garden?
Grade 3/4 & 5/6- Math, Science, and Social Studies
All classes Kindergarten to Grade 9 participated in using the greenhouse. Subjects covered in the greenhouse: math, english language arts, science, health. Also part of our schools Learning Improvement Plan is to decrease anxiety in our students through positive mental health and mindfulness. The greenhouse and gardening ties into this concept perfectly!
Who manages the garden day to day? Who manages the garden over the Summer break?
All classes are responsible for their own plants and garden. However, all students and teachers would pitch in to help other classes with watering, transplanting, etc.
In the summer, we had a member from the community volunteer to water all of the gardens. When we came back from summer holidays, the gardens were tall and lush. Flowers were vibrant and very healthy!
What do you do with the harvest from your garden? Do you have a harvest celebration? Do you use it in the cafeteria, or culinary classes? Do you donate some of the produce?
We ended up having our first garden market; which was held on the same night as our open-house. We had a great turn-out! We also sell some of the produce in our canteen at lunch. Our PAA students also cook with it.
Each class does something different. We have a Practical and Applied Arts cooking class that used many of the different types of vegetables.
This year we had a school from the Ochapowace Nation visit us. We harvested seeds from our flowers (marigolds, sunflowers, zinnias, petunias) and participated in a seed exchange with them. We hope that they will plant their seeds in their school grounds and enjoy their flowers as much as we enjoyed ours!
Do you have community involvement? Do you have parents and volunteers? Have been able to source other funding to help your garden grow?
We have community members who volunteer to till and cut the grass around the garden. A town employee also fills our water tote. We allowed the local daycare to bring the children and harvest what they required. Whatever we make selling the produce, goes directly back to the school garden.
Our community is very helpful! Both parents and community members are always asking how they can help. This year we put up a "wishing tree" where we hung tags that teachers wrote their garden wishes on.... EX: seeds, potting soil, watering cans, fertilizer, spray bottles, thermometer, garden tools, etc. Parents and community members would pop in and take a tag and when they went to town, they would purchase our wish and place it under the tree. This worked wonderfully!
What are your future plans for the school garden?
We want to increase the sustainability of it. We would like to purchase our own tiller and have the students work up the garden. We would also like to increase the size; as we sold out of ALL produce this year. We also want to improve the soil. We hope to bring in some sand and more manure next year. We want to get to the point where our expenses are minimal. We are also considering replacing all the soil in our raised beds. The portulaca has taken over and it is spreading across our front lawn of the school.
Our goal is to begin earlier in the season. A couple goals we are working towards are to get eavestroughs on the greenhouse so we can collect the rainwater and use. We are developing our composting program in the school and have just began with worm composting. Another goal is to add a solar panel to help with a heater so we can begin our growing season earlier!
Any words of encouragement/tips for a school starting a school garden?
Start small. Something manageable. Support from your school team is an asset. Seek volunteers in the committee to help. You would be surprised who is willing to volunteer their time and services. Remember that each child will not enjoy working in the garden and that is okay. Just start! Don't try to be too elaborate to begin with. Keep things simple. Ask others what their passion areas are with gardening and support them. Make connections and persevere - it is worth absolutely every minute of time and effort! We invited the committee daycare to come pick some produce. The kids noticed the potato bugs. They ended up picking potato bugs instead! Therefore the adults picked the produce. It was a win-win situation for everyone involved.
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