Presented to Board of Trustees of Gulf Islands Schools by Robin Jenkinson, Toby Carson, and Katharine Byers on February 28, 2018. Robin and Toby are parent and volunteer, and Katharine is a teacher at Salt Spring Elementary.

School gardens are a valuable resource for all our schools. At Salt Spring Elementary they have offered a space for student engagement in experiential learning within the school grounds, a living classroom for cross curricular projects. Students enjoy art projects, literacy and numeracy activities, science and connections to the aboriginal principles of learning as well as having full involvement in the design, planning and building of our gardens. Classes have engaged in compost and soil education developing an improved waste and compost system for the school. A group designed tool benches for the garden equipment, constructed scale models from card and then followed up with a visit to Windsor plywood to cost the project before engaging a parent to help in the construction. Salad was harvested regularly by classes to create salads at lunchtime, sell extra produce to parents and staff and make soup for the whole school from vegetables harvested from the garden. The list goes on as the gardens continue to offer accessible outdoor learning opportunities to all our students.

In fact, this appears to be the first year ever that all the elementary schools in the District have active gardens! We interviewed each of the schools to learn more about the programs and looked for common strengths and challenges. We’re in the process of writing a more detailed series of case studies, but here are brief snapshots of what’s going on at each school.

SD64 Gardens

Mayne: About eight years ago, the garden was created as a food-producing, outdoor classroom. The garden became a collaboration with the Food Bank, who waters and harvests over the summertime. This year, a farmer volunteer has organized workshops for the kids about soil and weeds, and the school just received funding to enhance gardens.

Pender: In 2009, the Spring Leaves Family Learning program gifted the school with a garden. Constructed with donated materials, it has a bed for each class in the school, including the daycare centre. A parent advisor, a proponent of Japanese Shumei natural agriculture, has helped students learn to grow food in ways that respect the local ecosystem, running a lunchtime garden club and assisting with class lessons and workshops. Over the years, students and the school community have fundraised for and built a composting centre, a greenhouse, and a garden classroom, which includes a cob storage shed, a living roof with a water collection system, a solar panel, and a cob pizza oven. The school has held harvest luncheons and treated visiting groups to harvest fare. For several years, the Gulf Islands Centre for Ecological Learning (GICEL) held a Garden Daycamp here each summer.

Galiano: Get this: they actually have a paid, part-time school garden coordinator in partnership with the Community Food Program, who waters the garden over the summertime. They also have a greenhouse for starts and year-round snacks. Once-a-week, small groups of children get to learn about, help grow, and then harvest and cook snacks with garden foods for the rest of the school. They also celebrate Nettlefest and Applefest each year.

Saturna: The community garden, located on school property, has been a part of the school program to varying degrees over the years. Right now, the Strongstart program plants a bed.

Fernwood: Established in the early 1990’s by the teachers and volunteers involved in the “Let’s Grow for it” Program, this garden includes a sophisticated greenhouse and a solid garden toolshed. After a rest period, the garden program was revived several years ago with help from a mentor from the SSI Garden Club, and then by invested teachers and parent volunteers. School chickens were popular, but short-lived. Greenhouse starts and their roadside farmstand help sustain the program.

Fulford: Established in the later 1990’s by parent volunteers, the garden includes fruit trees, a small pond, a greenhouse, composting areas, a bird bath, and many raised beds. At one time, there was an afterschool garden club. The current garden champion’s brilliant idea has been to focus class plantings around an annual harvest lunch in the early autumn, with different grades harvesting and preparing different parts of the meal, and then sharing a whole-school feast!

Phoenix: With many raised beds, a large apple tree, a goat-paddock, cob pizza oven, and rainwater catchment, this school embraces garden learning. New parent volunteers are taking on the project.

Salt Spring Elementary: Many people have worked over the past decade to get gardens going here, and it is truly a community project, with over 20 business sponsors plus individual donors and volunteers. The total value donated exceeds $20,000. Most of the classes now use the gardens for activities ranging from agriculture to art, storytelling, mathematics, and play. Springtime plantings are now focused on growing food for a June Harvest Celebration.

At Salt Spring Elementary

GISS: inspires with its innovative aquaponic-hydroponic greenhouse, micro-greens and herb sprouts, composting system, salad food-cart, indoor lettuce-growing stands, and healthy farm-grown cafeteria lunches and extraordinary culinary education!

Gardens in SD64

To learn more about the presenters analysis and recommendations to support school gardens across the district, click here.

Photos: Katharine Byers