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.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Take Me Outside project

I would recommend people to this resource


Colin is running across the country to highlight the need for children to be outside. Please take a moment to check out his run and if you are in Canada, see how your school can host an event when he comes through your town.

Natural Playscapes and Gardens

Natural playscapes are incorporated into school yards instead of traditional play structures. Natural playscapes have been shown to increase participation rates, decrease absenteeism, decrease bullying and injury rates and increase focus and attention skills in class. A natural playscape is not designed to be intimidating. Some children may find playing on traditional structures in a school setting to be intimidating and scary. They may stay away from such structures, decreasing their opportunity for physical activity.
Natural playscapes are open ended spaces that entice children with creativity and imagination. They are available to children no matter their physical ability and level of fitness.  Natural playscapes that use a blend of natural materials and native vegetation challenge and inspire children.

Gardens can be part of this landscape. Gardens can be a place to play, learn and enjoy being outside. Gardens can be incorporated into curriculum with many benefits to the students. Knowledge through experiential, hands on learning can teach children about food and nutrition. There is not one lesson that a child cannnot learn in the garden. Surely in an age where obesity is said to be epidemic, teaching a child basic gardening and nutrition can be part of the solution.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Nice quote from David Suzuki

“Natural Playgrounds should be the standard 
for all our playgrounds. They truly connect 
children with nature through play and are a 
sort of classroom for the next generation of 
environmental stewards.” 
           —Dr. David Suzuki

Barriers to school gardening

Many people have asked me what happens in the Summer to the school gardens and who looks after them when the children are not at school. This isn't California! 

No, this isn't California, and that shouldn't be a reason not to try and plant a garden at school.

Involving community in the design and planning of the gardens and greening projects helps to strengthen community links. Maybe there is a horticulturalist living next door to the school and may get involved with watering over the summer. Maybe there is a family who love gardening and can help out. There are many other possibilities for keeping the garden cared for and looked after. High school students looking for volunteer hour credits might get involved or a family may want their children’s party at the school and can put in some work while they are there? If a garden is near a senior’s residence, there may be possibilities for including them in the garden design and they may be able to share some of their gardening knowledge with the students? There could be a rota drawn up to amongst the students of a class to help out during the Summer.

There are many sited reasons for closing school gardens. There may be a lack of support on the part of teachers, school administration and maintenance staff. There may be problems with lack of funding and financing of the garden. There may be lack of support on the part of parents and volunteers. 

Other factors relating to not starting a project of closing a garden might be vandalism, ineffective integration into the school curriculum. There may be those summer challenges or that the garden just isn't valued as part of the school community.

In order to overcome barriers and challenges to gardening in schools, there needs to be broad-based support including principals, teachers, parents and wider community. Integration into the community is an excellent way to build up and maintain the gardening experience for students and staff alike. 

If anyone has any other ideas to share, please add a comment!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

More on grants...

I've just been looking at the Pepsi Refresh Everything website. They have grants in place for many grant opportunities in place and they are awarding grants of various sizes from $5K to $100K

Please check out their website at http://www.refresheverything.ca/how-it-works

slow foods USA

interview with President Obama.


Interesting in that the president and first lady are supporting school gardens and local produce and then the administration say yes to GMO Alfalfa! Talk about an contradiction!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Fundraising for schoolyard projects...

I've heard of many different fundraising ideas since beginning this project. The obvious route is to involve the local community and make a good design plan in order to access funding. As before though, if you don't have the design right, don't attempt to look for grants. The design and plan have to be done first. Outline goads and create a master plan and master budget.
I've heard of schools who have had bake-offs, grown bedding plants in classrooms and sold them to parents. There could be opportunities in the garden, once its established to hold ice-cream events and parties in the Summer to further community connections.There may also be opportunities to involve local greenhouses in helping the garden get established. Local businesses maybe more responsive to helping out if they are involved from the beginning. They may offer expertise or equipment at cost. The worst anyone can say is NO. Involving the whole school in the fundraising efforts may help the students feel more a part of the project.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

straight from youtube

via OHEA

The Dreaded Stairs

check out the video! It can be fun to walk up stairs!


I have had the pleasure of being introduced to OPHEA and the benefits they are trying to introduce to schools in Ontario. OPHEA is an organization that has been around since 1921 and works to support health and learning in Ontario schools. It is a not-for profit organization that is trying to help all children make a lifelong commitment to healthy and active living.
The program is implemented in schools with active partnerships from the community to try to reduce obesity and type 2 diabetes in the student population and encourage healthy and active lives. Partnerships include schools, health units, NGO's, government and private sector organizations to develop and run groundbreaking programs and services to support healthy and active schools and communities. The aim is to make Ontario the healthiest province in Canada.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Place Based Learning...

More information on my learning about different learning theory.

Place based learning studies the interplay between community and the environment. Place-based learning encourages teachers and students to use the school site, the local community, and special places nearby as resources, turning communities into classrooms.

It immerses students in local heritage, culture, landscapes, opportunities, and experiences as a foundation for the study of language, arts, mathematics, social studies, science, and other subjects.
It begins with asking students how they fit into the larger world and encourages students and educators to get out of the classroom and into the community and natural environment.
A growing body of literature suggests there are many benefits of place based learning. These include higher test scores, improved classroom behaviour, increased self-esteem and higher problem solving abilities. 
Place based learning immerses students into local heritage and environment, providing direct learning opportunities for a sense of belonging and community.
for further information see www.ecoliteracy.org and  http://www.placebasedlearning.co.uk/


This is an awesome resource for all those who want to help green their schools and neighbourhood. There is also a little information on the history of school gardens. I recently asked my mother about gardening at her post-war school and she said there was, but that only boys were allowed to garden as girls had home economics class instead.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Interdisciplinary learning

In reading about implementation of school gardens and curriculum, I keep coming across different terminology of learning styles. Interdisciplinary learning emphasizes connections between traditionally discrete disciplines such as math, science, history, and language arts, rather than limiting learning to one content area at a time. Planned around clear purposes, it is based upon experiences and outcomes drawn from a variety of curriculum areas or subjects and ensures a progression in skills and in knowledge and understanding.
Research has demonstrated that interdisciplinary teaching can increase students' motivation for learning as well as their level of active engagement. In contrast to learning skills in isolation, when students participate in interdisciplinary learning they recognize the value of what they are learning and become more involved in it.
How can educators use this type of learning in school gardens? 

Monday, January 24, 2011

more funding ideas...

Please check out this comprehensive list of Canadian funding opportunities for school grounds greening projects.


more on grants

Questions to ask when contacting these organizations for funding.

  • Have the criteria changed? Does your project meet their criteria?
  • What do they fund and not fund?
  • When are the applications due?
  • What is the turnaround time?

Funding sources for school grounds projects.

Heres a list of some of the funding sources for the school grounds projects in Canada.

Evergreen Toyota school grounds grants have provided more than $5.7,000,000 worth of funds to more than 2,500 projects across the country. Projects range from wetland restoration to school ground food gardens.

Their website gives an overview of the grant application process.
This website gives information on proposal writing for grants from evergreen and others. Involving the whole community is one way to get started. If the school is to truly benefit from a greening or garden project, they need to bring in the local community into the decision making process. It’s amazing what people in the neighbourhood can help with. Their ideas can help make a sound proposal to get funds required.

There is also funding available for daycares.

Sunlight Green Clean Kids


http://www.ltbk.ca/kids/index.php/join-effort/ This is a link for let them be kids. This is a community based way in which to bring lots of people together to build a school playground.

One of the biggest pieces of advice I have found is that the design process should not be rushed. Involve as many people as possible from students to school administration and local community members. Just because a grant is there, if the application is rushed, the money may not come.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Take Me Outside project

a worthy project to follow and support


hopefully they will stop by in Thunder Bay when they get this far!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Nature Deficit Disorder

I've been reading Richard Louv's book,"Last Child in the woods" recently. I was intrigued by his phrase,"Nature Deficit Disorder" and really wanted to learn more about this. His book is extremely interesting, a good read. Basically speaking, Nature deficit disorder occurs when children no longer have access too or are allowed, outside. Thus, according to Louv, a whole range of behavioral disorders set in.
I remembered seeing a photo not so long ago of a child, sitting with a DS, by the side of the largest and oldest tree in the USA. This child was playing on his DS, whilst his family visited the tree. It was quite a sight. The child was more interested in the game than experiencing the awe and wonder of this sight. It brought home a few realities about modern life to me and to the others who saw the photo.
I've been quite fascinated by the research around getting children outdoors more and into the woods. In Northern Ontario we are so fortunate to have so many places for children to be outside and experience the forests. What is holding us back in allowing our children more time outside and away from computers, televisions and structured sports events?

just found...

interesting link!
I particularly enjoyed the photos of the planters, thinking of my little boy!

Friday, January 21, 2011

More reasons for school gardens

Educational landscapes provide a forum for science and environmental education.
Planting trees help shade students from UVB rays and the elements in yards otherwise devoid of shelter.
Green school yards encourage direct interaction with the natural world.
School gardens and green spaces can provide educational experiences in a wide range of subjects. There is nothing that cannot be learnt from being in a garden. Hands on experiential learning is useful for students who find it hard to sit in classes.  Curriculum can be based around learning in an outdoor classroom.
Interdisciplinary learning is a method of teaching that brings students into a new awareness of the meaningful connections that exist among the disciplines. Research suggests that this form of teaching can increase student’s motivation for learning and active engagement in learning.
Research suggests that outdoor time can help in the therapy for students with ADD. Children who spend more time outdoors are better adjusted to schoolwork.
Gardens and green school yards can help promote a sense of community and ownership in the school.
There is a strong correlation between experiences in the natural world and children’s ability to learn. Apart from time spent doing physical activity, promoting health.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Exciting new stuff...


just found an article on the Ontario education website about creating healthy schools in Ontario.

Sowing the seed!

Sowing the seed
A garden is an ideal place for a holistic, environmental education. By planting their seedlings in a garden, they learn about lifecycles. From worms that help make our soil to the sun and rain that help our seeds grow. They learn about photosynthesis.  Food grown in the gardens can be brought to the classroom for nutrition and food preparation classes.
Environmental education should address our alienation from food and nature and provide opportunities to learn and grow. Gardens give us this direct opportunity to partake of the lifecycle. Food grown in the garden gives us a direct connection to our food source. Food grown in faraway places that is brought to us shrink-wrapped in the grocery stores is a direct barrier to our food sources.
Gardening provides a feeling of accomplishment and achievement to students. Reaping the handiwork of a garden brings us into direct contact with the earth. There is a sense of amazement in watching a seed appear above the ground in the spring and seeing it grow into a plant. Speculating on the size of the vegetable it might produce and being excited at harvest time to see what is produced. Watching a child at harvest time can give any adult a feeling a wonder as they taste that first pea of the season or seeing a child with a red face from eating fresh berries. 
Gardening in schools can reach so many children from all walks of life. There is so much a child can learn in the garden. Their sense of awe in harvesting their own food becomes evident as they show off their vegetables  to their friends and parents. The notion of Pay it Forward can become evident as a family begins to eat more healthily and others begin to share in the ideas and practice of gardening.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What is an edible food garden and why are they important?

What is an edible food garden and why are they important?

An edible garden is a school yard that has a garden in it. It can be as elaborate or as simple as is necessary. It can start out small and grow into a huge project. Whatever it is, it can also be a part of the curriculum of a school. The most famous project in North America is the Edible school yard in Berkley California. This was a project begun by Alice Waters and her Chez Panisse Foundation. Alice Waters is a famous restaurateur in the states. Check out their website for more details and amazing information about their project at http://www.edibleschoolyard.org/

The whole idea of the edible school yard is to incorporate the garden with the school curriculum. There is nothing that a student cannot learn from being in a garden.  Students can learn basic reading, writing and math by participating in school gardens. They can learn science and biology, food science and nutrition, they can learn by doing. They can learn about the environment and where their food comes from. They can learn respect for food, for themselves, others and community.

In an age where obesity is epidemic in our society, hand on learning in a school garden can teach students about healthy eating and healthy respect for healthy food. It can teach children about respect for the environment and sustainability. We have lost the ability to know about where our food comes from and how far it travels to reach our plates. Ask an urban child today where their food comes from and they might well respond, “supermarket” .School gardens are about being able to reconnect students with their foods and thus their environment.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

How to set up a school garden

Start small!
Gather up a team of like-minded people that can help start the program. You could involve students, parents, teacher, administration of the school and maintenance staff. It is essential that you have the support of principal and staff at the school. Administration staff at the school can offer support with budget constraints, future building plans, union issues and community partners in the neighbourhood.  It is also essential that maintenance staff are included in the project. They can help ensure that they have a clear understanding of the scope and purpose of the project. Community partners might include horticulture experts from the local horticulture society, MNR staff who might have expertise in native tree and plant species. They may be able to help foster support from local greenhouse businesses. Parents and other volunteers can help support the garden through plantings, waterings and bringing their knowledge to the classroom. Bringing the outdoors inside, brings learning inside for nutrition and cooking class.
All it takes is the spark of imagination from one person.

Why is gardening in schools so important?

Why should schools think about school gardens?

Why should schools think about building gardens in their schoolyards?

Gardening is becoming more and more important in a world that has become ever more disconnected from nature and food. The news media is forever telling us that children are becoming more obese than in previous generations and obesity and its related illnesses are becoming more and more of a burden on the decreasing budgets of healthcare authorities.

Children spend most of their waking hours in the school environment. With heavy emphasis on standardized testing and curriculum, recess has been cut down and children are allowed less and less free playtime for socializing and physical activity. A third of a child's daily intake of food occurs at school.

Schools can be at the forefront of prevention and considering to build a school garden on the usually vast and empty schoolyard, can be a start in the war against obesity. School gardens can teach students so many things related to health and healthy choices. Growing food can increase a child's sense of self-esteem and pride in their environment. Watching the amazement of a child in learning how seeds grow and what soil feels like is truly wonderful. Research suggests that children are willing to try the food they grow and often this can be the start of learning about food and nutrition, with the hope that this carries through to adulthood.

In Ontario, a new food and beverage policy is to be implemented in schools by September 2011. This policy affects mainly food and beverages that are to be sold in schools, not brought from home. What better time to begin a school garden at your school. This could be linked to the new policy, providing linkages to what the children can grow in a garden.

Gardening teaches children so much more than just sitting in a classroom learning reading, writing and math. Gardening can be incorporated into school curriculum, teaching children about the environment, sustainability and nutrition. School gardens can be incorporated into reading, writing, science, math, history and geography class. Curriculum ideas are accessible on the internet, with huge amounts of information to be learned. There are also books available, written by teachers on the subject of school gardens.

There are also many videos available on the internet regarding school gardens. Check out school gardens on youtube for examples.

There is a huge growth of school gardens in Canada and much support can be fostered in the community to start garden projects. Community support means that the connectedness we all need to nature will be brought home by the children as they talk to their parents about their days in the school gardens. Healthy schools, healthy communities and a connectedness with the outside is what we all require.