Welcome. The project started from a placement at university. Looking at the situation of school gardens in Thunder Bay, Ontario. There are many pieces of the puzzle and eco-justice, social justice, food security and education all find a home at my Blog.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Oh Boy...

well... it might be fall in Canada, but I am trying now to figure out how I can start some community gardens in the neighbourhood where I work. I've totally forgotton about the blog for the most part and am very sorry about this. Hope the information I posted earlier this year is still of benefit for my readers and I will try and post more as and when I find it. In the meantime, if there are any Sooites who have information about starting community gardens, please can you contact me


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Back to School

September winds are blowing in Sault ste Marie and the children go back to school this week. I can't believe the Summer is almost gone. I've heard several geese heading south and seen some trees changing colours already.With back to school, brings much that is new for those starting school and for those who are heading to their senior years are high school.

We've spent our summer getting to know our new district, a staycation, if that's what you like to call it. We've been working on our new garden and planning for the next summers planting.

I hope all those schools who began their gardens this Summer have had much success and are able to share that success with other schools. This is a growing movement in more ways than one.

Monday, August 8, 2011

School Meals

I grew up in the UK, eating the nasty school meals of the 1980's, hating every moment of it. Jamie Oliver, British chef extraordinaire, has in recent years, been trying to revolutionize school meals, first across the UK and now in the USA. Thinking about this, I have begun to realise just how important it is for children to have access to healthy food during their school day.

It seems in Ontario, there is no school meal policy. Children at elementary school have to bring their own meals to school in order to eat. There is of course, limited funding for emergency food to give to children with no lunches. This seems though to be diminishing. What kind of government condones children learning at school with little or no access to  hot lunches? Many children attend school without having breakfast. Schools rely on outside charities to provide breakfast programs.

I personally think its so sad that there is little money to provide access to healthy meals to children. Without good food, children cannot be active learners. With so much pressure on children to perform, without access to healthy food, children will have difficulty living up to all the expectations upon them. Access to healthy food should be a right. It is a preventative measure, to ensure children grow up healthy and strong. Surely prevention is a good thing?

School meals could also be part of a school garden program. The children could grow the food as part of a school garden program. Being able to grow their food in a garden and then eat it, teaches children so much about being a part of their environment. That connection has been lost in this modern, consumer society. Food is an integral part of our society. Without healthy food, children will grow up sick and obese. What kind of world will it be if we don't stop and think about our children's future?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

: Gardening as a Spiritual Practice

Spirituality & Practice: Map: Gardening as a Spiritual Practice

Just found these books. Haven't read them yet, I must admit, however, I think its a subject that needs to be thought about when out in the garden. I personally find being in the garden and outdoors at the local parks or in the countryside very spiritual. Its a time when you can be one with creation and enjoy fresh air and the trees swaying in the wind. I know from watching my children, how being in the countryside helps them to relax and rejuvenate.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hiawatha Highlands

I've just enjoyed a wonderful visit to the Hiawatha Highlands near Sault Ste Marie. Its a total gem of a park and great escape for those of us who live in the city.Pity I didn't bring the camera as we found the waterfall today. Its an easy climb on boardwalk( Some steps are missing). We also walked around the lake at the bottom of the hill and were lucky enough to spot a turtle. The pines smelled wonderful and the peace was enjoyed by all!

Meatless Mondays

Meatless Monday | one day a week, cut out meat

I've been a vegetarian for about 15 years now. Living in Canada, I find this quite hard as Canadians seem to me to be a people who love their meat, just look out west to the beef production! I found this website that has recipes that can help you adopt a vegetarian meal once per week. You never know, you may enjoy it enough to become a vegetarian like me!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

School Is Out... Now What?

Sara Winter: School Is Out... Now What?

Interesting article about how to connect to your children during school vacation! Its a LONG and hot summer. Enjoy being outside with your children!

Must read books on education...

7 Must-Read Books on Education | Brain Pickings

Among this list is the book," The Element" by Sir Ken Robinson. He has fast become a guru on education for me. I am by no means an educator. I tried that once during my first undergraduate degree, teaching English in Germany. I was a disaster, but that is a whole other story. Learning about school gardens also brought me to a new understanding about education, one that Ken Robinson teaches, that not all children learn the same, that schools do not do a good job of teaching anything but Reading, Writing and Arithmetic ( But that would also depend on who you talk to) and don't, on the whole teach children to reach their potential in today's world.

School gardens have the magic of becoming a haven for learners who don't do well with the modern curriculum or the traditional ways of teaching that are espoused by schools today. There are many different ways to learn and its sad that schools can't help all children reach their potential to do well in the modern world. As I've said before, there is NOTHING a student cannot learn from being in a garden.

Now I have to confess, I haven't read any of the other books on the list, but hope to go to the library in the week to start on book number one. Maybe I can blog about these books over the coming weeks if time allows. For the time being though, I hope everyone who reads this, reads Ken Robinson's books and check him out on Twitter!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Setting up and running a school garden

Good website about setting up a school garden. Its an important step in helping children learn about more than the traditional curriculum. When children leave school, they should have life skills that include learning about healthy foods. By creating a garden, school can help children learn about foods, community and increase test scores. Take a look through the blog and you'll see more information about school gardens that I've posted over the last few months

Setting up and running a school garden

Friday, July 8, 2011

Manitoban school garden information

more school garden websites!

Interesting website about school gardens, including podcasts, videos and other useful information when creating your school garden

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Monday, June 20, 2011

Take Me Outside Project

Day 154 – 39.7 km (total – 3254.2 km)

The Take Me Outside Project is nearing Northern Ontario. If a school can host them for a visit to talk to the children about getting outside, please let Colin know.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Social Networking...

I posed a question on Twitter yesterday and wanted to further explain what I was trying to say. I was with my social work professors during the week and was posed the question whether or not you can teach a student to network. I don't mean networking as in making a computer network, but to learn how to talk with other people, to social network?

I don't know if this is actually a quantifiable skill that can be taught. I believe this comes from experience of being with others and talking with others. Its a life skill that maybe has been lost over the years. Citizens don't seem to like interacting with each other or their environment anymore. People seem to have lost that sense of caring that used to be evident in neighborhoods where every adult would be responsible to watching out for the young in the area. I remember being able to go out and play without adult supervision for hours, if not all day. Nowadays parents are all watching over their children for fears and safety concerns.

If networking is a skill be taught in social work class, how can this come to be? During my placement, I've talked to many people about school gardens. I've met many people over the last 6 months and enjoyed interacting with like-minded people to help implement school gardens in the schools of Thunder Bay. I think one of the reasons I've enjoyed this so much is because I actually like people and like talking with people. This is definitely an asset when it comes to macro based community practice. Many social work students go into the profession it seems because of their micro skills. Can these be used in macros based practice too? Is it so difficult to interact with the larger community to discover assets and gifts to help people in the larger neighbourhood before clinical counselling and micro skills are needed? 

Here's some more of my thoughts on social networking skills. Why is it that many people just don't seem to care anymore? Why do we stand behind our curtains and watch our neighbours but don't join in? To greet each other? and how can we change that? How can our younger students learn how to interact in the community?

Saturday, June 18, 2011


I just wanted to say Congratulations to St Bernards school in Thunder Bay for starting their school garden over the last couple of weeks. I'm only too sorry that I have moved away and haven't seen the wonders of this new garden. Its a first for a Catholic School in Thunder Bay and to be highly celebrated. I hope all works out over the summer and the kids get to sample their hard work in the Fall!

Monday, June 13, 2011


Just wanted to say Thank You for all your support over the last 6 months. I am in the process of moving this week and wont be updating the blog for a couple of weeks.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sustainability of school gardens

I just wanted to post a few ideas I've been thinking about regarding school garden sustainability and eating local. The movement to create school gardens appears to be gaining in momentum, but there is always the question,"what about the summer holidays" or,"Teachers already have too much to do" or.,"It always falls to the teachers" How can these questions be addressed in order to make school gardens a reality for students, who benefit so much from the opportunities.

I believe that if there was policy at the school boards, all school could eventually deliver on this form of outdoors education. School boards that have a policy of implementation, could mean that there would be money available for training and creation of the school gardens. Teachers may need training in gardening and curriculum delivery in the gardens. There are so many curriculum ideas on the internet, much of which is free. Many schools in California seem to have school gardens, why can't this be the case in Ontario and Nova Scotia is prepared to give each school in the province $500 towards the creation of school gardens. It just doesn't seem to be on the radar screen of the current government in my province.

I know of teachers who are willing and able to make gardens, but without the support of the school boards and administration, it appears a daunting task. Creating and sustaining a garden is more than just the job of the teachers and administration though. Community members can and do get involved with sustaining school gardens. If we look at how many gifts many community members may have, we might be amazed at how many people could actually help in providing assistance and curriculum ideas to teachers. Local knowledge is often the best knowledge and there may be some master gardeners in the neighbourhood that you never knew about. Local elders may know even more about the local environment and be able to help with lesson ideas and support for teachers. I have learned that you never know until you ask and ask away, you never know what you might find out and if you don't ask, you'll never know!!!

Local community groups may also be in a position to help sustain a garden. There are certainly many schools with after school programs or even summer camps, that can go out into the garden for science adventures or art classes. If there are summer programs, you might be able to entice even more people with the possibility of free, organic produce with work in the garden. I've even heard of schools offering summer picnics or parties in exchange for summer work in a garden.

These are just some of my ideas and ideas I have borrowed from others. Its amazing what you can find out when you network and talk with each other. We need to create that possibility of exchange and learn from each other. Local produce, in my mind is often the best and helping schools create gardens that give that possibility to children is a wonderful opportunity. We need to recreate a local and more sustainable food system for the future of our amazing world. School gardens are just the start...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Reflections on a journey around the north shore.

The North Shore of Lake Superior.

Today I am travelling from Thunder Bay to Sault Ste Marie, Ontario. The journey by car takes about 8 hours, give or take moose or bear encounters and the breath taking scenery that is the North Shore of the World’s largest lake.

The scenery is indeed breathtaking. I have travelled this road many times and I am always amazed by its constant beauty. The road gently travels up and down over high ground to the low ground along the shore of the lake, back into the hills again. The forest seems to go on forever. Around every corner, hill and vista there is something different and new to see, depending on the season and time of day.

I have great respect for the pioneers who first settled this part of Canada and for the First Nation’s people who have lived here for many thousands of years. Recently I spent the day at the Fort William Historical Park in the city of Thunder Bay and learned about those settlers and how they traded with the First Nations people, who taught them how to use canoes and brought them into the interior to trap furs to send back to Europe. It’s a fascinating place to learn about local history and lore of Ontario’s great North.

Living in the north is an awe inspiring journey. It means living with extreme seasons of frigid weather in the winter and heat and thunder storms in the summer. Every day is a bit different from the next. The north shore reflects these seasonal extremes in the way that snow can stick around till June and frosts can reappear in August.  Gardening can be a constant challenge. Local knowledge and information for this can mean success or failure.

Encountering moose and other animals is a constant possibility along the highway that hugs the lakeshore. On occasions, I have seen many animals, close to the road, giving people an amazing and close up view of what animals inhabit this part of the country.  Moose encounters are often and can lead to serious accidents if one is not on the lookout. Other times I have done this journey and not seen anything. Again, it generally depends on the season. Possible to see, are moose, bear, deer, lynx, wolves and of course many majestic birds of prey.
Beaver have also shaped the land. Every corner seems to have a new lake or creek feeding a larger lake. I’ve written a little before about systems. I’m reading a wonderful book at present called Ecological Literacy, educating our children for a sustainable world. This book talks about how we can educating our children based on systems thinking and teaching them how sustainability is important in their lives. Creating gardens in the schools can help spark that creative thinking whereby children can begin this new journey and new way of thinking that can profoundly impact their lives, much like the beaver has impacted the landscape of the north.
The eastern side of Lake Superior is a wonderful place if you enjoy beaches. There are some fabulous, sandy beaches, mixed in to the lakes, rocks and trees that make up the scenery of northern Ontario. I particularly like the beach at Pancake Bay. Its long and sandy, enough to entice any beach lover. I’m not sure about whether or not I would like to swim in the frigid waters of the lake however. I know about the ice that covers the lake in the wintertime. I doubt the water can warm up that much in the short summer season.

Finally we arrived at Sault ste Marie. We only saw a dead moose this time, a casualty of a traffic accident, reminds us all of the wildlife that live along the highway. The scenery was as usual breathtaking. I would totally recommend the trip to anyone who has never been. The highway from Thunder Bay to Sault Ste Marie has to be one of the world’s most spectacular drives. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Community Service Learning experiences

Community Service Learning.
What is Community Service Learning? The Canadian Alliance for Community Service Learning states that CSL is where,” Students, educators, and communities build partnerships to learn from each other while working together to strengthen individuals, communities, and society”

It is a form of pedagogy that involves students and community partners, usually connected to a course. Some universities have CSL programs, others do not. I was lucky to be at Lakehead University which offers CSL opportunities as part of its degree courses.

Part of the CSL experience is learning about the changing world of work. It is about learning about complexity in this world and how the world is constantly changing and shifting. There is no more certainty in the world of work anymore. Things change, people seem to have multiple careers and CSL is about learning how to adapt in this changing world.

So if CSL has been about learning about the changing world of work, how has this impacted my placement?  I began this blog and my placement whilst completing a social work degree at Lakehead University. I was lucky enough to begin work with Dr Connie Nelson and the Food Security Research Network at the university to learn about how school gardens can have a place in schools in the city. There is a growing movement of school gardens across North America and it has been exciting to see the impact of this in schools. Some gardens are teacher led, others are led by parents, all with the desire to include gardens as part of a wider curriculum on environmental, experiential and placed-based education.

The Food Security Research Network has been part of many projects in our city. Recently I wrote about poultry farming in Thunder Bay and how the students of Lakehead and the FSRN had begun a project to see how viable a poultry abattoir would be in the city. Other students have been working on community gardens or therapeutic gardens and youth. The FSRN has also produced a short film about local food initiatives in the area. For information about this and other projects, please see ,http://www.foodsecurityresearch.ca/

I started this project with a little knowledge from my previous courses on social work theory and have ended my degree learning about education, science, new theories, environmental studies and much more. I can’t extoll the wonders of community service learning enough. The biggest thing I can take from this experience I think is how little deeds can grow into bigger things, much like the pay it forward idea. Children benefit so much from gardening and learning about gardening and how wonderful that it might be included into curriculum of schools.

From my work over the last 6 months, I hope that there is the start of a network of school gardens in the city of Thunder Bay that can each support and help each other, whilst advocating for new school gardens in other schools. This network might be about a sharing of knowledge and support, which can sustain each other and new schools in this endeavour. 

Eat Local Article

Eat Local

Whilst sitting in a coffee shop waiting for my car to be fixed one day, I picked up a copy of a local paper, produced right here in Thunder Bay. The paper is called,” The Walleye” A wonderful paper full of ideas, reviews, cultural topics and more. This month, the front page had a chicken on it. The headline read, “Spring Chicken, Thunder Bay’s Black Market Poultry” I had to pick it up and read more.
I love the idea of eating local. Growing up, I learned how to grow vegetables with my grandmother and parents. I’ve read the, ”Hundred Mile Diet” and enjoyed “Animal Vegetable Mineral” and I have brought my children to the farmers market faithfully nearly every week since they were born.
We have been able to purchase local beef and pork in the city for some years and now I try not to purchase any meat from the supermarkets. The meat scares of recent years and reading the above mentioned books have made me realise just how meat is raised on huge commercial farms and I know they deserve better. Being able to purchase local chicken though has been somewhat of impossibility.
The article notes that it is illegal to sell farm raised poultry in the Thunder Bay area as there is no licensed poultry abattoir in the area. Farmers do raise and sell chicken, but it is done strictly on the, ”Black Market”  . Like many things in this area, its not what you know, its who you know and if you want the local chicken badly enough, it isn’t that difficult to find out where you can buy it.
But these farmers do so at a price of being found out. The first infractions can cost them hefty fines of up to $25000. The Food Security Research Network in the city has been trying to work with local partners to try and find a solution to this. They discovered that there is an increasing demand for locally produced birds and the people are willing to pay for local birds if such an abattoir existed.
This is exciting news for both consumer and farmers alike. Hopefully soon someone will seize the opportunity to open a sustainable business like a poultry abattoir and support local farmers and the people alike. Farmers already producing such poultry will finally be able to come out of hiding and no longer have to jeopardize their farms and business anymore.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

School Garden websites

I love patrolling the internet looking for information on school gardens. There are so many exciting projects out there from all over the world. I've been thinking about the importance of sharing information with others on school garden projects. Schools could make blogs or create websites based on their gardening experiences that can help others in their journeys to create gardens for their own students.Photographs and information about what works and doesn't work in their area are a wonderful way to assist others.

Learning from other schools is an exciting way that new schools can join in this movement for change in education that is occurring across the world.

gardening clubs

New school garden opened at St Aidan’s primary school - News - Tottenham Journal

A short article on a new garden at a school in the UK. The idea of having a lunchtime gardening club seems a good idea to me. It enables the children to work on the garden in their free time and perhaps use harvested vegetables and fruits as part of their healthy lunch

Summer approaching?

Now that May is almost at an end, people have been asking me about planting schedules and whether or not it is safe to plant their flower and vegetable gardens yet. The crazy weather of the last week, makes me doubt that its warm enough for most annuals to be showing their heads outside at nighttime, but as a general rule of thumb, if your seeds are still underground( ie, no green shoots showing) they should survive the light frosty nights of Thunder Bay. (We cover up green shoots if there is a risk of frost in the city)
It does seem a little strange to a European, that we would be getting frost warnings at the end of May, but this is the north shore of Lake Superior, so I guess all is forgiven. I do remember though when we first came to live in this beautiful part of Canada, local people thought us strange that we would be planting out our vegetable garden before the magic date of May 23rd. This date seems to be enshrined in local lore as the start date to all gardening and summer activities( given the frost warnings of the last few days, this seems a little off for summer to be beginning!) I think we disproved this theory within the first year of planting as our fall crops were magnificent that year.
Walking around our neighbourhood, I have seen gardens full of pea shoots sprouting and lettuce. The leaves are finally on the trees( thanks to the magic May 23rd date, when they usually reappear) and Summer activities do seem to be starting.

Happy Planting Everyone!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Frost warning Again!

There's a frost warning for the Thunder Bay area, with temperatures dipping after the rainy weather over the weekend. Cover those gardens if there is any possibility of frost damage :)

looks like we have a frost warning for the next couple of nights. Hope all the hard work in the gardens doesn't get damaged. At least its nice and sunny during the daytime.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

School Gardening videos

Here's a few school garden videos that I just found. All very informative and hopefully help others in the creation of the school gardens.



These videos are based in San Diego

Funding Grant Supports School Gardens | News Releases | Government of Nova Scotia

Funding Grant Supports School Gardens | News Releases | Government of Nova Scotia

Congratulations to Nova Scotia. Hopefully all provincial governments will eventually be encouraged to provide financial support to school garden efforts across their provinces.

Home Depot School garden grants...

Welcome to The Home Depot, Inc. Corporate Web Site

grants applications from April through October 2011. For more information, check out their website at the link above.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Spring has finally come

Spring has finally hit the lakehead and the leaves are slowly returning to the trees around our city. The birds came back a while ago, first I began to notice the robins, singing from the top of the tress and now we have nuthatches and warblers in our spruce tree in our front yard.
Spring took a long time to return this year and we were teased by constant snowstorms throughout March and April. I felt so sad for the chilly robins as they tried in vain to celebrate returning to the north shore. I have been so happy to see how some of the schools in our area are embracing the outdoor classroom and beginning to plant their school gardens. Its wonderful to see the happiness on the faces of the children as they explain what seeds they have planted and where their new garden is going to be. We have some new gardens going in this year and hopefully these will offer some hope to other schools who wish to follow suit.
I think the faces of the children say a lot to me. Maybe Edward O Wilson was right and that we are all innately attracted to the natural world all around us. He coined the word, biophilia.Hopefully this new generation growing up will learn just how important it is to be outside and learn about the natural world and become the new ambassadors for a more sustainable world. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thunder Bay

Photos and Videos: Moon Rise over Thunder Bay - The Weather Network

For all who don't know, Thunder Bay is a city on the north shore of Lake Superior. I found this wonderful photo taken at night the other day and had to post it. Thunder Bay is nestled at the lakehead, surrounded by the boreal forest. Some say its the land of lakes, rocks and trees. I say its just beautiful and well worth visiting for the outdoors enthusiast!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

School Garden resources

I've just found this excellent website full of school garden resources.


Hope you find it as interesting as I do

Monday, May 16, 2011

What to do in the Summer Vacation.

Posts: Summer Break Is upon Us (07-29-2010) - Abundant Community

what to do in the Summer Vacation period? This article includes some ideas. How about base it around a school garden?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Ecological Literacy

I must admit, I haven't read this book yet, but am planning to as soon as I find a copy in my local library. Here's a link to the information in the book http://www.ecoliteracy.org/books/ecological-literacy-educating-our-children-sustainable-world I am reliably informed that it is a wonderful resource for teachers and parents on place based education and sustainability.

Pop Bottle greenhouse


what a fantastic idea... a greenhouse made out of pop bottles. Please see the instructions. Could be a project for your school garden.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Get Outside and play


Get outside for the day with your children

Bring a grandparent to school day

Old Fletton Primary School - Grandparent's Day

I had to post this as I think its a wonderful idea to get families involved in your child's school garden. Grandparents have an abundant amount of knowledge and can share with schools in the creation of school gardens and the education of our children

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Be a Friend to your school garden...

There are plenty of ways to help out and be a friend to your child's school garden. Here are just a few ideas;

  • volunteer to teach food culture in the classroom
  • volunteer to assist in planting seeds in the classroom
  • donate seeds, soil, jiffy pots
  • donate time
  • donate lumber and assist in creating raised beds
  • learn about how gardening can benefit your child
  • donate Canadian tire money to your school so they can purchase equipment and seeds
  • assist in preparation of food from the garden
  • volunteer to help during summer vacation period to water and tend the garden

Friday, May 6, 2011

Farmers Market's

I've been thinking a lot about farmers markets in Ontario. We are amazingly lucky in Thunder Bay to have such a thriving market. There are meat vendors, fresh produce and cheeses to be had as well as baking and other goodies to be found. There has been great success in the city to show people how important it is to each locally and to chose local products.

Why do I love the farmers market? Thats an easy question to answer. You meet the farmers who produce your food. You only have to look at the recalls on vegetable and meat products at the supermarket to realize just how important it is to know who is making and growing your food. I love the fact that the vendors know me and my children and know what we like to purchase. Saturday mornings are about choosing healthy local produce and knowing that there is little or no pesticides on them. I love meeting up with friends and seeing people I know at the market. The children have a lot of fun too. They love learning about the farms and animals and vegetables. Its so important for children to have that connectedness to what they eat and to know that food doesn't come from the supermarket.

Farmers markets are about a sense of belonging to our environments. Knowing where my food comes from helps me to understand my environment better and enables me to make choices. For everyone who knows me, I am a BIG fan of our local farmers markets in Ontario.

for more information on farmers markets in Ontario, check out these two websites.


and http://www.thunderbaycountrymarket.com/

Friday, April 29, 2011

EarthBox Kids Project

EarthBox Kids Project

what a wonderful idea, particularly if schools are interested in gardening, but haven't yet committed a place in their yard for a project

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Theories and gardening...

This blog posting was my attempt to link my placement work with theory. The theory I chose to write about was complexity theory or complex adaptive systems theory.

I am training to be a social worker and as part of my degree, we were asked to place our placement settings with a theory we had learned about in class or during placement. I had to think long and hard about what theories to use in my school garden/food security placement. There seem to be so many theories that fit. Here is a bit of what I've been thinking about over the last week or so.

There are numerous theories that could be used in the implementation of school gardens. In complex adaptive systems thinking, school gardens are part of larger systems. These systems include education, health, sustainability and environment. Complex adaptive systems help us think about the place of school gardens in the larger system of education, health and the environment.  Western thinking tends to separate different elements in the world. As a result, we think of humans AND the environment as opposed to humans as PART OF the environment. Complex adaptive systems are basically special cases of complex systems. They are dynamic networks of interactions and relationships not aggregations of static entities. They are dynamic and evolve according to a changing environment.

School gardens are part of a larger system of environment, community, education and sustainability. School gardens promote a sustainable lifestyle, learning to grow food in a garden. It connects children to the earth and their place in a larger community. Humans need to feel the earth that gives them a sense of connectivity to the earth. If one reads Edward Wilsons’s ideas on biophilia or love of life, we can see how important it is for humans to feel that connectedness with the earth. Richard Louv discusses a disconnect from nature and how we need to feel a sense of belonging in our environment and get our children outside again. That sense of being able to plant seeds in soil, to learn about soil and composting is so important in an age where the understanding of such life systems seems to be vanishing.

The system of education needs to change in order to promote this new way of thinking of belonging and environment. Education is currently focused on a linear model, producing young people who are grounded in reading writing and arithmetic, but no more. Does school teach children about how to live in this modern, technological age? School should teach children about life, not just academics. By implementing school garden philosophy into school curriculum, schools can achieve a thorough grounding in learning about food and nutrition, about science, geography, math, history and social studies. Education should be a dynamic system that engages students in hands on learning.

By creating school gardens, students become familiar with their community. Community engagement is vital to the long term sustainability of school gardens. Schools can actively utilize community partners to bring about the creation of school gardens. There are many possibilities of liaising with community groups to illicit assistance in school gardening. The question is, how can we develop ties in the local neighbourhood that can enhance the school gardens? What questions should be asked to enhance these ties? There are many groups in the community that could provide programming that could enhance the programming of the schools.There are also many active parents who could assist in garden programming at their child's school. Staff also need to be actively engaged so that they can learn about how to teach in a school garden.

School gardens can promote health and nutrition. Schools are in a perfect location for enhancing student’s health and well being through the promotion of physical activity and good food. Obesity is on the rise and by having the opportunity to garden, students can keep active whilst learning about food and the natural environment of which we are all a part. It is vitally important that students know how to grow their own food. Many students today might think that their food comes from the supermarket and know nothing of how their food got there in the first place. Children often show a sense of wonderment when they are taught how to garden and are able to bring those lessons home to their own families. How wonderful it would be if children were able to grow in self esteem when their families use the vegetables they have been taught to grow in schools.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Short Quote

We do not own this place, we are just passengers.

I found this quote when searching Wendell Berry today. Apparently its from Robert Redford. If you think about this though, it speaks volumes to sustainability. Thank you Mr Berry for sharing this and for all your wisdom on community and our sense of place in the world

Composting in Schools

Composting in Schools

see this website for ideas on school composting. Important for maintaining and improving soil in your school gardens.

Success with School Gardens

Success with School Gardens

book on ABC's of school gardens. Check out the rest of this website too for easy ideas on school gardening.

Monday, April 25, 2011

More books and resources for school gardens

Kentucky School Garden Network

The Kentucky school garden network has a page of books and resources for school gardening

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Growing Schools Garden

The Growing Schools Garden

Explore the school garden and learn about gardening and its benefits to school children

Friday, April 22, 2011

Food Sovereignty

A couple of days ago, Canada's Food Policy was finally launched, right in the middle of an election campaign. I was reading through it, wondering at just how much work had gone into this policy. This country is vast and one of the richest countries in the world, and yet, thousands are using food banks and are living in poverty. The publication of this new policy can't have happened at a better time.

The one thing I was struck by when I was reading through the policy last night, was the term Food Sovereignty. Food security is familiar to us all, as is its opposite, food insecurity. All we have to do is look around lower income neighbourhood and you'l probably notice a lack of supermarkets and many convenience stores, selling higher priced, lower nutritional value, foods. There is a connection between obesity in these places as the inhabitants are more likely to have to shop in these stores. An article I just read from a few years back mentioned it is cheaper in some places in America to buy a twinkie than a piece of broccoli. People in such neighbourhoods have to make more of an effort to travel to a supermarket, some miles away and purchase more healthy foods.

So what is food sovereignty? It can be defined as the right of people to a healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own foods and agricultural systems.

The term food sovereignty comes from La Via Campesina, which is a global peasant movement that was co-founded by the Canadian National Farmers Union.

I really like this definition. I think it says a lot about how food should be produced in today's society, where fuel prices are sky rocketing and we should be less reliant on foods that are highly processed and trucked in from thousands of kilometres away. Food should not be treated as a commodity that makes the middle man rich, whilst the farmers need two or more jobs to allow them to keep farming. There should be a focus on food for people. Food for people should be at the centre of all policy making. It is more than just a commodity.

Food providers should be valued. There should be supports for farmers and their livelihoods. Children should be able to learn where their food comes from and society should respect farmers and their work. Maybe then, farming would again be viewed as a good profession to go into and there maybe more people going into farming.

Food systems should be localized and its control should be put into local hands. There is a huge rise in farmers markets in Ontario. Our local farmers market is extremely busy week after week.  Farming should build on traditional knowledge and culture. Local residents may have a huge amount of knowledge when it comes to producing foods. Urban farming can grow from small community gardens where that knowledge is passed down from generation to generation.

As I already mentioned, food is an aspect of culture. Food has great power to create community with one another and cause wars. Rising food prices have affected the whole world. There have been mass riots in the developing countries. A new reality of locally, sustainable food production is needed in order to feed the growing world. There is a lot of new research on organic farming and questioning if it truly can feed the world. I hope it can.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Nourish Life

Wonderful food based curriculum for schools, asking students the question, `Where does your food come from?This can be found at http://www.nourishlife.org/pdf/Nourish_Curriculum_Guide.pdf Check it out and see if you can use it in your school garden and nutrition program


If anyone is reading this and interested in school gardens, there are weekly chats on twitter about school gardens and gardens. Join Twitter and use #schoolgardenchat and #gardenchat to catch up on all the latest information on school gardens and gardening

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

slow foods USA school gardens manual


information on how and why to create a school garden

Environmental Award for teaching excellence

Press release regarding a local teacher at Agnew H Johnson Public school in Thunder Bay.

Monique Menard, a Grade 5-6 teacher at Agnew H. Johnston Public School, is the
recipient of the second annual Edward Burtynsky Award for Teaching Excellence in
Environmental Education. Mme. Menard won the award for her “enduring commitment,
passion, and exemplary practice in Environmental Education.”
The second annual Edward Burtynsky Award for Teaching Excellence in Environmental
Education was established by The Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of ChildStudy Laboratory
School at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. The
award, named for world-renowned Environmentalist and Photographic Artist, Edward
Burtynsky was created in order to recognize and celebrate outstanding elementary
school teachers in the province of Ontario.

This is wonderful news for the teachers and students of this school and their ongoing efforts in their school gardens. Congratulations Mme Menard!

One Year on

YouTube - BP Oil Disaster One Year Later: Help us hold big oil accountable

You tube video of the BP oil disaster and its aftermath

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Monday, April 18, 2011

Jamie Oliver

I've been a fan of Jamie Oliver for a long time. For those who don't know who he is, he is a British chef, made famous by the food network and others in North America. I have a couple of his books on cooking and have tried many of his recipes and my family really enjoy them.

I was quite fascinated when I read a few years ago that he was trying to change the school meals in the UK. As a consumer of school meals when I was a child in england, they are nothing to write home about and being fed a diet of mushy peas( an English delicacy that I still do not like) and fries, made me really really hate school meals. My parents eventually sent me with brown bag meals, which we packaged up ourselves from home made bread. Jamies crusade seems to have been long and drawn out. I'm still not sure about the outcomes of the school meals revolution in the UK, but I do know he's been in America on a new school meal campaign.

I have been to Huntingdon West Virginia and this is where Jamie Olivers first food revolution went to. I have seen trailers for some of the show's and was really shocked by one, when he went to a classroom and asked the young students what the names of the vegetables and fruits he held up where. Most of the students didn't know.

Its time to change the way we teach our children about food. There are some amazing people out there who are working on change through school gardens and anti obesity campaigns. The school garden movement is a growing tide of change that is for the positive and if more research was done on their impacts and benefits, maybe more money would flow from the top to help more schools achieve their goals in creating a school garden. Teachers would also benefit from this change as money might flow to help them in their own training on how to teach in outdoor classrooms.

Jamie`s current food fight is in California and I await with eagerness how this new revolution to change the school meals in their schools goes. In a state where there are so many documented school gardens, the Edible Schoolyard, being one, it would be sad if this fight goes nowhere.

In the meantime, I invite everyone to watch Jamie Olivers passionate TEDtalk on his food revolution.

School Gardens, Thunder Bay: Festival of the Fairies

School Gardens, Thunder Bay: Festival of the Fairies: "Festival of Fairies(and other such little people) Sunday, May 151pm to 4pm1 413 Palisades RoadSouth Gillies Festi..."

Festival of the Fairies

Festival of Fairies

(and other such little people)


Sunday, May 15

1pm to 4pm
413 Palisades Road

South Gillies


Festival of the Fairies

(and other such little people)
is a celebration in honour of the fairies, sprites, gnomes, elves, pixies, and nymphs and the magic found in their forests.


All friends of the little people are asked to bring a t-shirt to be decorated,  personal snacks and clothes for outdoor festivities 
Come dressed in the spirit of magic and little forest dwellers.
10 minute forest walk to festival site.
Could be muddy in spots if wet
:To register call Sue at 473-4599

"Now I see, the secret of making the best persons-
it's to grow in the open air and eat and sleep with the earth."
- Walt Whitman

Cultivating young minds....

I found this image on a website whilst browsing for more information on curriculum and school gardens. I had to post it because I think it says everything about school gardens and how they can teach sustainability, cultivate young people to learn about the environment and healthy eating, educate young people about ecology and the environment, enrich lives, inspire and transformation to learn.
How powerful is that for reasons to garden!



New nourish website with ideas on curriculum and education for healthy nutrition.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

experiential education and gardening

I have been very interested in the ideas of Sir Ken Robinson, whom I discovered when I was looking at how to integrate school gardens into the curriculum of schools. Sir Ken is an English professor, who has moved now to California and he is an expert in creativity. He speaks about creativity in education all over the world. His basic premise is that education, like the world, is dynamic. He maintains that children are being educated for the world of the industrial revolution, but that the world has changed since then. He talks about how many children just can’t do well at school because their individualism and creativity are stifled because of the emphasis on math and English and standardized testing.

If this is the case, he argues, then we should adapt the education system for all children to do well, not just the ones who score high on the standardized testing.
This is where the link to experiential learning comes in. Learning in a garden is basically a hands-on method that teaches children based on experiences, not on sitting and listening to teachers talk from a book. As there are so many recognized ways of learning, teachers and the education system should adapt to include all students. Gardening is a way to enhance the creativity of students.

Experiential learning is grounded in research and many theories of educators such as Piaget, Dewey and Kolb. Paulo Freire suggested that education is a banking institution, in that children in schools are made to sit in linear rows and swallow all the information given to them by teachers. In the outdoor classroom, this changes and children learn for themselves and experience nature in their own way.

Gardening education is a proven success in educating our children. Children are empowered by their outdoor learning and behavioural issues inside can be lessened due to this. Teachers report that children who learn outside have better attention when they are inside and gain higher marks on the standardized testing. 

The other part of this gardening system is the way that children have become disconnected with nature. I recommend everyone to read Richard Louv’s fascinating book, Last child in the Woods. In the books, the author talks about how children in particular are not seen playing outside in nature as often as they did when the author was younger. I can attest to that too. I was left to wonder with my brother to local ponds and woods, playing in creeks and without adult supervision. As parents today we are shocked by this. There are always the “what-if’s” lurking round the corner in the parents minds. The author tackles these feelings head on and discusses why parents are not happy letting their children outside to play like they did when they were younger.

Richard Louv also discusses how we have become disconnected with nature. He uses the term, “Nature Deficit Disorder” Its an amazing concept, I hadn’t contemplated before, until I realised how right he is. If you ask the average inner city kid where their food comes from, chances are, they’ll answer the supermarket or McDonald’s. How sad it is that we are raising a generation of kids that doesn’t know how or where their vegetables and fruits grow.

Children’s lives have become so structured that every minute of every day is accounted for. From school to swim lessons to dance lessons and music recitals. To relax, children go to their Wii Fits or Nintendo’s. This disconnect with nature is affecting not only children’s knowledge of their food but also their environment. There is a lack of understanding and appreciation for the world outside. Richard Louv famously mentions a little boys response to being outside. He replied that he doesn’t like being outside because there are no electrical outlets.
The point being from all of this is that there is a whole world awaiting for our young people today and by recognizing the changing world and changing paradigm, schools and universities are in a place to assist in our relearning of our sense of belonging to the planet.

quotes from teachers regarding school gardens

quotes and testimonials for schools gardens from students and teachers alike. I think it is interesting to read that several teachers refer to how students learn that food doesn't come from the supermarket and the impact that has on children. The teachers report the sense of amazement amongst the students who planted seeds in the garden.


Canadian Wildlife Federation :: Habitat 2020


grants available for greening and wildlife habitat creation

School gardens

I've just found a wonderful website with a list of benefits for schools thinking about adding a vegetable garden to their school grounds.


if you check out the rest of this website, you'll find great resources for the Three Sisters Story

Saturday, April 9, 2011

I found a really interesting quote today when I was searching for information on complex adaptive systems theory. I thought I might re-quote this as I start to think about complexity theory in relation to gardening.

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world” (John Muir 1911)

I really like this quote I found online. It says so much in relation to ecological systems. We are all part of one world and each of us tugs away at it in our own little way, bit by bit. I remember when I was a child learning about the rain forest and thinking, wow, its huge, its being chopped down, but I am thousands of miles away in my little corner of England and it wont affect me. Learning about something so far away didn’t make sense to me.

As I grew and as I travelled, I realised how we are all inte
rconnected with each other and with our world. What I do in Thunder Bay may well affect people in Australia, a kind of butterfly affect. What I do in my little corner of town also affects what someone on the other side of town might be experiencing and vice versa.

Gardening can be seen as a complex system. Gardens are dynamic and ever changing systems. As a seed grows, it changes and produces a beautiful flower that produces pollen that attracts bees and butterflies that pollinate it. You can look at complex systems in ant colonies and bee hives. I think the point being here is that there are systems wherever we look, they are complex because they are dynamic. There is nothing that cannot be taught to children, whilst in a school garden/outdoor classroom. From food and nutrition to math and science, children all over the world are being encouraged to be outside and learn. 

As Sir Ken Robinson says in his lectures about creativity, life is not linear. We are not linear beings, but constantly evolving creatures in a dynamic world. Teaching children about gardening is one aspect of this idea and bringing children outside into the outdoor classroom is a perfect way to teach children how life is constantly changing. In this way, children are able to learn about individual and collective behaviour and how it impacts everything around them. 

Complex adaptive systems are dynamic networks of interactions and relationships not aggregations of static entities. They are adaptive in that their individual and collective behaviour changes as a result of experience.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Environmental Film Network presentations...

I am just back from viewing the " And this is my garden" DVD documentary at the environmental film network festival in Thunder Bay. This documentary follows the Mel Johnson school project in detail over a growing season. I would heartily endorse people viewing this film as it is truly inspirational. That is not only from a school garden ideal but a whole community food security initiative.

One of the highlights of the film was the discussion that followed in the car. I asked my 5 year old what he liked best about the film. He replied that he liked the boy who was trying the hot pepper and the fact that he didn't realize the pepper was hot. I asked him how about trying more vegetables in our garden and he was very excited.

Hopefully more schools will try to start gardens with their students. If anyone wants to see a copy of the movie, contact the Mel Johnson school for more details.http://www.carmanvalleyleader.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3003864

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

more grant possibilities

Here's another grant possibility I found. Its deadline is now passed for the 2011 season, but check it out for the fall season for gardening.


Free online seed planner

Gardener's Supply Kitchen Garden Planner Garden Designer

excellent design planner for use in gardening. Its even better because its free!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

community gardening benefits

Benefits of Community Gardens:

  • Improves the quality of life for people in the garden
  • Provides a catalyst for neighborhood and community development
  • Stimulates Social Interaction
  • Encourages Self-Reliance
  • Beautifies Neighborhoods
  • Produces Nutritious Food
  • Reduces Family Food Budgets
  • Conserves Resources
  • Creates opportunity for recreation, exercise, therapy, and education
  • Reduces Crime
  • Preserves Green Space
  • Creates income opportunities and economic development
  • Reduces city heat from streets and parking lots
  • Provides opportunities for intergenerational and cross-cultural connections

Friday, March 25, 2011

Should Public Schools Open Their Playgrounds to the Public? - Education - GOOD

Should Public Schools Open Their Playgrounds to the Public? - Education - GOOD

Interesting article. Maybe they should consider opening their yards to community gardening too. Mostly school yards appear to be wasted space. In the growing school gardens movement, community gardens that share space may be the answer to many of todays health issues?

Community and empowering children to be food secure.

In many of my blog postings I have written about how to increase parental involvement in schools and the community importance of school gardens. I don't think I've ever looked at what community actually is. This concept has fascinated me for quite a while. The idea of what is community and where belonging comes on that spectrum.

So, What is community? Community is a term that can mean different things to different people. Community can be a term for a place, a group of people, individuals with similar interests, people with the same profession, people with common ownership. There are probably plenty more examples.

In terms of community and school gardening. Gardening has the power to empower neighbourhood, raising awareness of environmental issues and food security issues. The idea of empowerment as a social process is to make neighbourhoods stronger, giving the people a voice of strength and independence. Gardening gives a community a sense of self-reliance.

There are many examples of how gardening can increase capacity of a community. Many people work in this area of helping people in neighbourhoods to help themselves in learning how to grow their own food. The idea  of growing a garden and feeding oneself is such a powerful concept to me. I have never known a year where I haven't been able to grow my own vegetables. A wonderful documentary was made at a school in northern Manitoba on their gardening project and how it has impacted the community. You can see a trailer for this movie on you tube at http://www.youtube.com/user/meljohnsonschool The children at this school use their own homes as their garden and their teacher visits them to teach them about growing the foods. I've already written a short blog about the project at this school. It constantly amazes me how communities in the north can empower themselves and this is a perfect example.

The idea of gardening as a tool to empower a community is important. The purpose of empowerment is to increase the power, wealth and capacity of a community. To grow food for themselves, a community is doing all three and becoming food secure and food aware. Teaching children about food through the school curriculum gives the children an amazing opportunity. There is a sense of wonder that should be nurtured in the garden. Children should be given the tools to learn how to grow their food, to know where it comes from and how it is grown.

There seems so much in the news right now, particularly with Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign with their garden at the White House. Schools seem at the forefront of the new empowerment process on obesity and health.

The idea of food security and empowering children to have the knowledge of how to grow their own food makes me realize the possibilities we, as adults, can make real for students. The environmental crisis is real, as are the issues that we have around obesity and health.

How can we make school  gardens a reality? The more I read, the more I realize just how advocacy in this area can help. Perhaps it will take schools doing research to bring to their school boards, or maybe it might take a few schools who have gardens to get together to enable workshops. I like the idea of Pay It Forward, whereby children who have gardens at schools become mentors to those who wish to learn how to garden. They can get their whole families involved in this way. Children are so smart and can be so passionate about gardening that they become, in themselves mentors to others.

I've thought long and hard about sustainability of gardening and maybe by having children as ambassadors for their own gardens, adults might finally catch on and agree to start a project in a new school.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The science of compost

The science of compost | MNN - Mother Nature Network

excellent information about composting! For those in the Thunder Bay area, see the blog posting on vermicomposting in Thunder Bay

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Environmental film network

Film network festival in Thunder Bay 1st - 2nd April

Please see their website for a list of films showing during the weekend. http://tbefilmf.wordpress.com/about/
There is a showing of ,"This is my garden", a documentary about a school garden project in Northern Manitoba and many more.

Three Sisters Story

I found several different versions of this story. An interesting tale for those wishing to plant a school garden. 

The Three Sisters

A long time ago there were three sisters who lived together in a field.
These sisters were quite different from one another in their size and way of dressing. The little sister was so young that she could only crawl at first, and she was dressed in green.
The second sister wore a bright yellow dress, and she had a way of running off by herself when the sun shone and the soft wind blew in her face.
The third was the eldest sister, standing always very straight and tall above the other sisters and trying to protect them. She wore a pale green shawl, and she had long, yellow hair that tossed about her head in the breeze.
There was one way the sisters were all alike, though. They loved each other dearly, and they always stayed together. This made them very strong.
One day a stranger came to the field of the Three Sisters - a Mohawk boy. He talked to the birds and other animals - this caught the attention of the three sisters.
Late that summer, the youngest and smallest sister disappeared. Her sisters were sad.
Again the Mohawk boy came to the field to gather reeds at the water's edge. The two sisters who were left watched his moccasin trail, and that night the second sister - the one in the yellow dress - disappeared as well.
Now the Elder Sister was the only one left.
She continued to stand tall in her field. When the Mohawk boy saw that she missed her sisters, he brought them all back together and they became stronger together, again. - http://www.birdclan.org/threesisters.htm

Here's another version;
The Three Sisters Story - Modern day agriculturists know it as the genius of the Indians, who interplanted pole beans and squash with corn, using the strength of the sturdy corn stalks to support the twining beans and the shade of the spreading squash vines to trap moisture for the growing crop. Research has further revealed the additional benefits of this "companion plant- ing.'' The bacterial colonies on the bean roots capture nitrogen from the air, some of which is released into the soil to nourish the high nitrogen needs of the corn. To Native Americans, however, the meaning of the Three Sisters runs deep into the physical and spiritual well-being of their people. Known as the "sustainers of life," the Iroquois consider corn, beans and squash to be special gifts from the Creator. The well-being of each crop is believed to be protected by one of the Three Sister Spirits. Many an Indian legend has been woven around the "Three Sisters" -sisters who would never be apart from one another- sisters who should be planted together, eaten together and celebrated together. - 

Every Child Matters

Every Child matters.
Community cohesion promotes the education of children and youth to live and work in diverse communities, in terms of religion, culture and social backgrounds of people. It is concerned with the health and well-being of the whole child. With obesity rates rising and the fact that today’s children may not live as long as previous generations, something needs to be done. Schools can go a long way to promoting health through gardening. Children, who are taught to appreciate fresh and local foods at a young age, will go a long way to providing them with the opportunities to make lifelong decisions over food and choice. Healthy connections with local communities and agencies can go a long way to promote these important healthy goals of gardening.

Teachers report children being proud of their school environment. That they can’t wait to get into the garden and learn. It helps foster community spirit and involvement. Think of how proud a child might be of going to school where there are plants, flowers and trees in the schoolyard. There is growing evidence that children eat what they grow. Children who eat together are more likely to try new fruits and vegetables. Children are enthralled that tiny seeds can produce 6 foot sunflowers and that they can see tiny bugs and learn the importance of bugs in a garden. Learning to nurture seeds and plants in a garden can help children learn to nurture themselves in their own environment.