Culinary Training 11/12 / Foods and Nutrition 11/12 / teachertong

How (and Why) Does Your (School) Garden Grow?


Ms. Kestell, Ms. Lewis, and I are very excited to have started our edible school garden this year in Fraser Heights Secondary Home Ec. It is located in a very tiny plot of land near the new Neighbourhood Learning Centre and gets fantastic sun after noon! Together with other departments, we have attempted to bridge the gap that can sometimes exist between subject areas – life is connected, so should disciplines!

We started planning this a few months ago when we had an idea to team up with the Biology 11 classes (they study plant biology) – Ms. Cap was quick to jump on this idea, and even asked us what kinds of seeds/plants we wanted to see in the garden! She used this opportunity to introduce the various factors that affect plant growth to her classes. Students in her classes were excited to see their seeds germinate and grow, manipulating variables including light, heat, and moisture. The students in Ms. Kestell and Ms. Lewis’ classes were excited about the planning of the garden plot. In early Spring our classes went to Science World’s Ken Spencer Science Park to get a glimpse into what systems were necessary to be successful in growing food for our use in class. Students drafted up plans taking into account potential recipes they wanted to create with fresh produce and taking into account the number of weeks we had left in the school year for plant growth and harvest.

IMG_0191Ms. Lewis tending to the garden!

Once we started to work on this project, others started to help out and jump on board. Mr. Van Vugt and Mr. Clarke helped us get the BASES department on board to do general maintenance and transfer existing plants, weed the plot, and transfer soil! Then, Mr. Savory in Technology Education helped us in training a couple of our students to create trellises and mini-fences for our garden plot – in the end, we had all hands on deck for every step of this project. The feeling of community, one of Miss Kestell’s focuses for her practicum, was immense.

When it comes to budget, we basically have spent next to nothing so far to get it up and running, and the results have been fantastic! Thanks to Miss Kestell, Mr. Savory, and students from the Foods and Nutrition 11 class, the wood structures we built were made out of wood scraps. Ms. Cap and Aldor Acres supplied the seeds. Ms. Lewis’ friend donated almost $500 worth of beautiful nutrient-dense bedding soil. The only thing we had to purchase were tarps for the soil and recently we bought two watering cans.

See how exhilarating watering our gardening can be for students: GARDEN WATERING FUN!

IMG_0292Our first onion!


Many of you know that I don’t usually write blog posts without some sort of motivation. My motivation this post comes from a very peculiar questions we received. Recently the three of us teachers were faced with strong opposition that our school garden had anything to do with foods and nutrition classes. To many of us, yes, there is a very obvious connection (I don’t think I even need to spell it out for those of you who do read this blog). However, this garden is not just a symbol of community, growth, and responsibility as I have mentioned in the first few paragraphs.  I am sad that rationalizing the creation of a school garden as a means of teaching foods and nutrition is even an issue. The connection of soil to plate is, for me, is one of the many reasons why I went into home economics education. I saw a lack of connectivity in youth about where their food comes from, what they are putting into their bodies, and I definitely believed they should care. Moreover, the lack of farm-to-food education and awareness in adults is reason for Ms. Kestell, Ms. Lewis, and I to give our students this opportunity.

This quote from John Dewey (1944) resonates with our philosophy:

Gardening need not be taught either
for the sake of preparing future gardeners, or
as an agreeable way of passing time. It affords
an avenue of approach to the knowledge of
the place farming and horticulture have had
in the history of the human race and which
they occupy in present social organization.
Carried on in an environment educationally
controlled, they are means for making a study
of facts of growth, the chemistry of soil, the
role of light, air, moisture, injurious and
helpful animal life, etc. It is pertinent to note
that in the history of man, the sciences grew
gradually out of useful social occupations.”


Some more reading material for those still questioning:

Why School Gardens?
School Gardens – Growing Minds

School Garden Benefits

Why School Gardens Matter
The Value of School Gardens

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