Submitted by Barbara Thrasher, Education Coordinator, Groundswell Network Society

Forty-six kilograms (kgs) of fresh produce: a fantastic outcome for first time gardeners. 

All thanks to the Invermere Home Hardware & Building Centre, who supported the pilot project from beginning to end as a component of their food sustainability strategy. 

Susanne L’Heureux, HR Manager, came to check in to see the results of the support Home Hardware had given. “It was a joy to see such enthusiasm and energy in our future gardeners, today. I feel it is so important for our youth to know the benefits of gardening go beyond just reaping the harvest. Gardening teaches us responsibility, patience and all the health advantages of eating fresh produce. Harvesting what you have grown instills a great sense of pride, especially when we share our harvest with others such as the Columbia Valley Food Bank. (CVFB)”

Lawrie Mack, with the CVFB was on hand to help them harvest and treat them to harvest vegetable soup to celebrate. 

Teacher, Claire Wilson, was an early supporter, eager to have her students participate in this pilot program, even though it meant extra hours for her personally; she ensured her students and parent volunteers were watering and caring for their crops over the summer. She said, “The experiences in the garden have connected to every single curriculum area and so many of the B.C. core competencies.” 

“They learned patience,? teamwork, confidence in their abilities, care for the environment and enjoyment in being outside. The students had the opportunity to contribute to their community and feel a sense of pride in helping the food bank. They have learned skills that enable them to help others as well as themselves. Lucky kids indeed!” 

Teachers involved in the project, along with principal, Terri Ann Hayes, noted that mental health was improved when students had been in the garden. In some cases they were quieter, less anxious and able to focus better. 

Lead facilitator of the pilot program, Jessie King, shared her experience of taking students through it. “I saw students light up with delight as they unearthed enormous potatoes, or learned how they could save seeds for next year, or held ‘breakdancing worms’ in their hands. I saw them work effectively – and hard – with their classmates as they filled their garden boxes with soil, harvested the many pounds of produce and put their garden to bed. I saw their mental health improve as their hands got dirty through authentic learning, doing and playing experiences. Their smiles, laughter, and engagement in the tasks explored was proof of that. 

“Their excitement and fascination to hold and learn about different insects during our insect day led them to express empathy and desire to build ‘insect homes’ (or insect habitats) for these garden friends (personal & social core competencies). I saw students transform their new knowledge around plant growth and needs to designing their beds and planting seeds (thinking core competency). And lastly, through their many, many, many discussions about all of the garden-related things, they were learning, seeing, doing and negotiating. I know that they were using, exercising and improving their communication competencies.”

“In conclusion, garden education isn’t just getting your hands dirty and growing some food. It is a full spectrum educational experience: cross-curricular, authentic, dirty, inquiry-based, joyful, team-based, inclusive, intergenerational, community-based, hands-on, challenging and rewarding learning.”

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