“Hands on fun!”
“It was great!”
“Everything was amazing and very informative!”
These were just some of the comments that participants made following three successful Learning Garden Workshops. Sponsored by Corteva AgriScience, Nutrients for Life Canada was the proud provider of three teacher professional development events. NFL staff spent a day with teachers in each of the locations, and although each day had a similar agenda, the location of each event offered something unique for each group. Events were held in Calgary AB, Saskatoon SK, and Chatham ONT, with each event being hosted at a Corteva facility.
The workshops kicked off on October 25th in Calgary. A gardening workshop on the 24th floor in downtown Calgary did turn some heads as NFL staff rolled carts of plants and crops through the bustling lobby of the City Center Building! Following an opening intro by NFL Executive Director, Tamara Sealy, our Alberta Learning Garden partner, Inside Education (Kathryn Wagner) took over to explain their role in the partnership with NFL and their work with the Learning Garden Grants in Alberta. The morning finished with NFL staff sharing a number of the activities and presentations they do with classes. Participants got their hands “dirty” texturing soil and planting some wheatgrass. An incredible Greek lunch (thank you Corteva!) was followed by an absolutely amazing presentation from Corteva researcher, David Pinzon. Dr. Pinzon capably addressed many of the “hot topic” issues facing today’s agricultural community. Master teacher, Warren Lake (Robert Thirsk High School) shared his passion for education with participants. We all left wanting to be a a student in Warren Lake’s class and with the drive to make our own classes just a little more like his!
One week later, on November 1st, NFL staff descended upon the Corteva Reseach Facility just outside of Saskatoon, SK for the second Learning Garden Workshop. From downtown Calgary one week ago, the research farm provided a very different, yet equally as valuable, learning backdrop for our Saskatchewan stop. The agenda was similar to the Calgary event with some notable changes. A morning keynote from University of Saskatchewan’s Vanessa Young, highlighted some key differences between horticulture and agriculture and offered some amazing tips for lifelong learning in the garden. Vanessa’s passion shone through as she offered unique solutions to many of the problems backyard gardeners face. Following another amazing lunch (Thanks again Corteva!!) two master teachers shared their stories. Koreen Geres from Mount Royal Collegiate has worked tirelessly creating an amazing community garden in their school’s area. The work Koreen does with new Canadian is inspirational. And every school would be lucky to have an Amanda Kornaga at the helm. The principal at Churchbridge Public School, Amanda shared their awesome partnerships with local area retailers and farmers. Willing to try virtually any project, Churchbridge students are learning first hand about agriculture. The day ended with lead researcher Dr. Julian Heath, leading the way to the Corteva Research Greenhouses at the University of Saskatchewan. Dr. Heath and the staff at U of S, explained the research going on and demonstrated some of the techniques used in the process of selecting the traits needed to improve crops for future generations. It was a pleasure to be joined at this event by NFL Board Memeber, Terry Baker who was able to provide valuable insight and background about NFL. Terry has been on the board of the NFL since it came to Canada in 2008.
The third event of the fall was held at Corteval Distribution Center in Chatham ON on November 6th, 2019. Greeted by Melani Rich from Corteva, this event kicked off in a similar fashion with the Intro and NFL activities. Thanks to our partnership with Communities in Bloom, we were fortunate to have Lynda Rotteau provide a wonderful keynote on school gardening. Lynda shared proven tips and tricks for successful school garden plans based on her wealth of experience from implementing school gardens. Obviously school gardens are not a new thing as Lynda has been working on them for many years. School gardens do seem to be making a resurgence in today’s schools. though. Following the third incredible lunch (three for three Corteva!!!) there was time for some additional NFL activities before heading across the street to the Distribution Facility. Led by Corteva Plant Manager, Tom Cruise, this group of teachers saw the internal workings of a company that ships seeds across North America.
Thanks to funding from Corteva, one school in each area was also the recipient of a Learning Garden Grant of $3000. These schools were: Dr. Gordon Higgins School in Calgary AB, Walter Murray Collegiate Institute in Saskatoon SK, and Georges P. Vanier Catholic School in Chatham ON.
When participants were asked “What could be done to improve the workshops?” the most common answer was “more time - make it a two day workshop!” and that tells me the workshops are on the right track!
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