Ottawa’s school garden revolution
It’s happening quietly, but let me tell you, it is happening. Ottawa is currently going through a school garden revolution, as the number of gardens as well as their productivity and activity increase. With organisations like Growing Up Organic and Nutrients for Life in Ottawa supporting the growth of these gardens. We have over 30 school gardens in Ottawa, and these are only the ones I know about, there is no that there are many more.
The school garden is very important here at Heritage Academy. It is a great way to have students learn in an experiential way. They get to use their hands and get involved in a project from start to finish. The applications are endless and the results astounding. Every time I speak with a different group I challenge them to find a class that you can’t use the garden for, and I haven’t been stumped yet. Garden journals in English, graphing output in math, soil samples in geography, root dissections in science, the list is never ending. We have students from grade 1-12 in the garden, and they love it. The cost is very low and the payoff is very high. We have students have a chance to solve problems, fine tune designs, eat foods they never would have if they hadn’t grown it, and much, much more. Our gardens are an invaluable tool, an outdoor laboratory.
Gardens do not need to start with massive investments, ours started off quite humbly. In my first grade 8 class seven years ago I had a student ask me how to grow pickles. This threw me for a loop as an educator. My answer was to put a shovel in the ground in the back yard and plant a 1$ pack of seeds. That year we had cucumbers, and we pickled them in class. Next September that student ate the pickles that we had “grown,” it was an amazing experience, and what drove me forward to keep the gardens going at Heritage Academy.
Now our garden has 8 organic vegetable beds, including a tire garden and an octagonal pyramid. We produce a great deal of food every year. The students plan, plant, manage and decorate the garden. In the summer we donate extra food to local restaurants and they, in turn give cooking lessons to students during the winter. We also launched the city wide program the Potato Project this year in conjunction with the Ottawa Food Bank in an effort to give back fresh food to the community. It is our goal to have a garden program that connects the students, teachers, parents and the community as a whole. We have been working with other local schools to get a strong network so that the gardens are all helping each other.
The next steps at Heritage Academy include, expanding the gardens, strengthening community ties, installing a greenhouse, working towards a student farmers program, and much more. We pride ourselves in implementing new, interesting pilot projects. We also hope to support new schools that would like to start gardens but are not sure how.
I invite you to take a look around, see if your school has a garden, and how you might be able to become involved, and if it doesn’t feel free to contact me and I can point you in the right direction. Let’s keep the Ottawa School Garden Revolution going!