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, February 28, 2011

Attention Restoration Theory

I've been thinking  about how the topic of school gardens can be linked to theory. There seem to be multiple theories that can be linked to school gardens, for this purpose, I have chosen one.

Attention Restoration Theory proposes that natural environments can assist in attentional functioning. There are two types of attention;

Voluntary Attention or direct attention is what we do when we deliberately pay attention.
Involuntary attention is easy and doesn't require any effort. This is useful for rest and recovery. Going into a natural environment can assist in recovery from attention fatigue.
  • Informational - distractions/noise/multi-tasking
  • Affective - worries/concerns/loss
  • Behavioural - unreasonable expectations
  • Physical - bad weather/poor vision
What happens when we use direct attention?
  • Distractibility
  • Irritability
  • Cumulative loss of effectiveness
  • Measurable decline in direct attention capacity
Fatigued attention can increase irritability which in turn can create aggression and impulsivity.Regular exposure to natural environments counteracts attentional fatigue in healthy adults. More focussed studies of the effects of the natural environment consistently showed improved attention and mental restoration.

If schools create green spaces for their students, behavioural issues are reduced and students are more engaged in learning. Absenteeism is also reduced. 

For more information about this theory, you can google Stephen Kaplan

School Gardens, Thunder Bay

School Gardens, Thunder Bay

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Master Gardener program

The master gardener program can help in design and maintenance of a school garden. http://www.albanyherald.com/home/headlines/Master_Gardeners_offer_educational_opportunities_116992983.html and locally please see  http://tbmastergardeners.homestead.com/

Changing the Paradigm

A few weeks ago, I was drawn to the RSA website (http://www.thersa.org/ ) and saw a video of Sir Ken Robinsons lecture on changing the education paradigm.  Sir Ken Robinson was born in England and now lives in Los Angeles with his wife Marie-Therese and children James and Kate. Sir Ken Robinson is an international author, speaker and international advisor on education in the arts to government, non-profits, education and arts bodies. He was Director of The Arts in Schools Project (1985–89), Professor of Arts Education at the Warwick University England (1989–2001) and was knighted in 2003 for services to education. Of special interest to him are the ARTs subjects.

He is author to a number of books, exploring creativity and some have been reviewed by famous people, including John Cleese. You can look at his website for a list of his books with reviews. http://sirkenrobinson.com/skr/who
When talking about schools and education, Sir Ken Robinson says that we are all born with great talents. We are all creative but schools suppress many of these innate talents. He says that education suppresses these talents because education is based on the old industrial idea of creating workers who can fulfill the needs for that society. There are the useful subjects and the useless subjects, of which the arts are included. This includes art and drama. The useful subjects are those that basically will give financial security for a future career.

People do their best though when they are in their element, they are doing things that they have a natural talent and aptitude for. The old model of education is obsolete and business should realize that if workers are happy, then so business will prosper. We should not suppress the creativity of the people. We need to educate our children for a future economy and cultural identity.

We need to change the paradigm of education for a new world. We need to build education around the model of personhood that does not deny the difference in people and their different talents. I find his ideas around testing particularly interesting. He says that we are taught at school to sit still and not look at answers for our tests. In life, we are encouraged to collaborate and collaboration is the stuff of growth.
We need to create an organic metaphor for education that is based on identity, community and feeling that includes and celebrates creativity, vitality and diversity and that is customized to fit all children.

Education currently follows a linear pattern. We raise our children to believe that if they conform, do good in school and follow the right path, you'll get to university or college, and end with a good job. Life is not linear. It is organic. It changes constantly. Why are we teaching our children along the same model as the fast food industry, a model of conformity? Its more about customizing and personalizing education for the future.

When I think about how about opening up education to the arts and not just focus on literacy and numeracy, I can see how exciting education could actually be. Children have standards rammed down their throats from such an early age and their creativity is stifled out of them , whilst they are told to sit and not move and listen and not fidget.Children need to move, they need to get outside and they need space in which to grow and learn. How exciting to bring learning outside to an outdoor classroom to enable children to express themselves in a creative, hands-on way. Integration of curriculum into the garden can help children flourish.

More on Ken Robinson can be found at http://sirkenrobinson.com/skr/watch

How to Write A Garden Grant | eHow.com

How to Write A Garden Grant | eHow.com

Saturday, February 26, 2011


Biophilia is a term made famous by Edward Wilson. It is the idea that humans evolved as creatures deeply enmeshed with the intricacies of nature, and that we still have this affinity with nature ingrained in our genotype. In other words, we are all subconsciously connected with nature. The term biophilia means "love of life or living systems " 

Reading about biophilia made me wonder how we can capture this "love of life or living systems" with children and recreate this connectedness that Edward Wilson says we all have. Children are now suffering from what Richard Louv terms as Nature Deficit Disorder. If this is true, how to we reconnect children with nature?

Developing appropriate environmental learning starts where children are at and not where adults transfer their own issues ( global warming etc ) onto the children. I often wonder whether children truly understand why me must recycle and reuse items. David Sobel writes, "Suffering from the time sickness of trying to do too much too quickly, we infect our children with our impatience" 

In other words, if we teach children about the rain forest and not about their own place, their own environment around them, children will not necessarily bond with nature. Research suggests that if children are allowed to spend time outdoors in a wild place and had an adult sharing that love of nature with the child, they were more likely to grow up with a respect of nature. That means, it isn't the teaching of rain forests sometimes thousands of miles away that makes a child love nature, but total immersion in their own natural world with a modeling adult that creates that loved of nature.

Nature means different places to different people. For some, it might mean a city park, for others a community garden. For us in Northern Ontario, its the vast wilderness of North of Superior. Gardens in schools are a simple start to re-engaging children with their surroundings.

So bringing this back to gardening. If the same issues around love of nature exist in food, surely teaching children to garden in an outside classroom is a way to help them to keep healthy and teach curriculum at the same time. Children get excited about being outside. What better way to teach children about healthy lifestyles and nutrition, meeting curriculum expectations, by being outside in a garden?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Rethinking the school lunch.

Everyday my child goes to school, my mind wonders on what I can produce for him for his lunch that day. Of course producing a lunch everyday that is healthy and balanced is a challenge in these busy times and there are days that I feel very guilty about what is in his lunch. I search daily for new ideas that will give him his balanced nutrition, that he will eat and that will give him the energy to carry on during his day.

There are of course many reasons why we should care what is given to our children for school lunches. Food nourishes body and The Ontario ministry of education has begun to do that with its new Foods and Beverages policy to be implemented in September 2011.http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/healthyschools/policy.html There is also information regarding the changes in Ontario schools under http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/healthyschools/tipsParents.html which gives tips for parents.This policy concerns primarily food that is sold on school premises. I've heard many parents concerned about what they can send their children with to school after this policy is implemented. This is where the schools can help in reaching out to parents through workshops run by the school councils. This is an important policy that is a start in prevention of many health issues that are starting in children.

Access to healthy foods is also an academic issue. Research suggests that better nutrition can mean higher test scores, increased cognitive function, attention and memory for our children in class. What better reason than to change the way we do school lunches?

some ideas for school lunches http://www.freshforkids.com.au/recipes/main_meals.html

As a cultural issue, the experience of eating builds community, celebrating and strengthening our community and diversity. As a cultural issue, access to clean and healthy foods can become too a local issue. Support for local food initiatives is increasing and by supporting local farms in the production of school lunches, the community wins with local economic benefits. In developing policies to enhance ties between schools and farms, children can obtain a richer learning environment. Students can be connected with the farm through farm to school programs. Where children can visit farms through school programs and learn about food and where it comes from and who grows their foods.

Local communities gain in building partnerships and raising community awareness. School gardens can be a starting point for children learning about food and healthy lifestyles. Transporting foods burns up huge amounts of fossil fuels and creates pollution. All you have to do is look at the cost of transporting strawberries across the continent to Northern Ontario. We have learnt not to eat in season and we have learned that strawberries can be eaten year round, but at what cost? Increasing reliance on local food production enhances and strengthens community resilience and food security.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Community Involvement and School Gardens

When talking about school gardens, there needs to be a wide support base in order to maintain them. School support from administration is essential, along with obvious support from teaching staff.

Community capacity and efficacy are also an important aspect of school gardens. Can anyone in the neighbourhood lend a hand? Are there gardeners available to add some input into a project? Can beautifying the school yard increase neighbourhood capacity? Generally community capacity refers to the knowledge and skills that a community can bring to a project.

The underlying notion of social capital is that relationships matter. The example of social capital in building a school garden might draw on relationships within a community to start and maintain the project. Putnam in his book, "Bowling Alone" ,says "that social capital refers to the connections among individuals - the social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness arise from them" The World Bank speaks of the benefits of social capital in schools. They argue that schools are more effective when parents and local citizens are actively involved. The teachers are more committed, students enjoy higher test scores and better use is made of the schools facilities in those communities where parents take on an active interest in their children's educational well being.

A garden and greening project can help students have pride over their immediate environment, their school. Maybe that pride can spread to helping out and volunteering in their own neighbourhood. Interactions help enable people to build communities. Schools benefit enormously from volunteerism.

School gardens encourage physical activity amongst adults and children. They can be used to enhance access to fresh foods and be a source of community development, with schools hosting workshops on gardening and nutrition. Urban food growing can be a policy of local authorities and policy makers.

They can promote access and inclusion amongst the student community and wider neighbourhood.

Top reasons to green your school yard

I just found the green schoolyard network based out of Boston. This wonderful resource is full of information on reasons to green a school yard. This includes gardens and play areas for students. The website discusses how many school yards seem to be set up as prison yards, with asphalt and chain link fences, designed primarily for the surveillance of students, rather than having their well-being in mind. Several articles I've read refer to how traditional school play structures are benefiting the type A child, rather than the timid student, who prefers quiet and solace than the boisterous play of others. The greening movement is gaining momentum.

So, with the above in mind, here are some good reasons to have an outdoor classroom experience in your green school yard. These ideas came from the green school yard website. Some ideas I have expanded on.

  1. Shifts educational focus from secondary to primary sources.Traditional classroom teaching uses textbooks, lectures, video and the internet as instructional tools. The Outdoor Classroom exposes students through direct experience to nature areas and demonstration models .
  2. Uses experiential teaching to engage students.The Outdoor Classroom fosters active, hands-on, inquiry-based learning in a real world setting. Through group problem-solving activities students embrace the learning process as well as seeking final outcomes.
  3. Makes learning a multi-sensory experience.  E. O. Wilson’s Biophilia Hypothesis reminds us that the human species, having evolved in the natural world, has a deeply-rooted need to associate and connect with nature. Students need to feel they belong and the outdoor classroom helps them reconnect with nature.
  4. Fosters the use of systems thinking. As a mini-ecosystem, the Outdoor Classroom emphasizes the interconnectedness of all things. Through exposure to the intricate web of life, students come to understand that complex natural and societal systems often require holistic rather than linear solutions.
  5. Lends itself to inter-disciplinary studies. In seeking a holistic understanding of the outdoor classroom it is often necessary, and desirable, to employ multiple academic disciplines. Laying out a planting bed requires math skills. Distinguishing native from non-native plants provides an opportunity for social studies. Creating a scarecrow is an art project. A garden journal will foster writing and drawing skills. There are many curriculum ideas that are posted on the blog and to be found on the internet. Many local initiatives are also available.
  6. Recognizes and celebrates differing learning styles. As popularized in Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, people have a variety of aptitudes and ways of learning. Although some students thrive in a text-based environment, others will benefit from a more experiential approach.
  7. Connects the school to the neighborhood and the world-at-large. Through learning and stewardship activities students come to understand that their schoolyard microcosm reflects global environmental issues. Proximity to the surrounding neighborhood often leads to service learning projects that emphasize social involvement and responsibility. Accessibility to the Outdoor Classroom provides opportunities for after-school programming, perhaps involving community partners. High visibility and interest encourages local volunteerism. What school is not looking for higher parental involvement? This often leads to higher test scores for students whose parents play an active role in their school.
  8. Design and installation is a modest capital expense. School systems often struggle with budgetary issues in prioritizing initiatives. The cost/benefit ratio for installing and sustaining an Outdoor Classroom is attractive and the goal of an Outdoor Classroom in every schoolyard is achievable. Many funding opportunities are available for the right project. Many grant opportunities can be found on my blog.
  9. Projects a positive message about public education.Schoolyards can be degraded and unsafe or vibrant, dynamic school/community open spaces. Either way, we send a message to students and neighborhood about how much we value the education of our children and the community at large. Increasing the positive talk around the neighbourhood can send positive messages to the school.  The Outdoor Classroom is a reminder that innovation is alive and well in public education. The community may well follow suit.
  10. Blurs the boundaries between academic learning and creative play. Kids love the Outdoor Classroom. When a teacher asks who wants to go outside every hand is raised. Absenteeism goes down on Outdoor Classroom days. By preserving a child’s innate sense of curiosity and wonder we will foster active and engaged life long learners. This in turn sends the message to a child that learning can be fun!

Fit Families

check out this website.


This website gives your property a walking value out of 100, by measuring its proximity to shops, parks, schools etc.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Agnew H Johnson Sustainable School Garden

An amazing project in the city of Thunder Bay is the school garden at Agnew H Johnson school. This garden project began in 2008 and was officially opened on Sept 17th of 2008. The garden, named Le Coeur d'Agnew/Edible Incredible Garden by the dual track, EnglishFrench students has been integrated into the school culture.

The school has a nutrition committee and a gardening committee. The nutrition committee works to offer healthy lunches, limit candy as rewards, offer local, healthy food alternatives at school events.The classroom work of the committees addresses issues of food systems, taste education, agricultural awareness, biodiversity, media literacy and food skills. 

One class per year is involved in the project. One of the parents is involved in teaching the class and planting the garden with the students. Students, families and the community is then involved in maintaining the garden throughout the Summer months. The garden project is integrated into the curriculum and the students are involved in classes on food culture around the world and nutrition. The students have been shown photos of families around the world and their weekly food and also movie clips of food production around the world. There are often class discussions regarding food and culture. The students already have an amazing amount of knowledge of foods.  

The class will be involved in planting the vegetable garden as the snow recedes and maintaining it with their families over the Summer Break. Last year, the harvest from the garden was used to produce a hot soup for the whole school. 

The effects of the garden have spread to other nearby schools. Students are the local High School were involved in building a shed for the garden at Agnew school. The shed is used to house garden equipment. This kind of involvement helps strengthen ties between schools and community in the neighbourhood. 

The garden at Agnew H Johnson school has been a huge success. It encourages children to awaken their senses and awareness of the environment and they place in it. The students gain and appreciation of the value of healthy foods and of their community.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Parental Involvement in Schools

Having parents and families involved in a child's school is vital for a student's success. A healthy community can often mean that there is a healthy school environment and vice versa. Parents are an important link in the process of creating a healthy school and there is a need to establish cooperative links between schools, parents and the neighbourhood.

Parental involvement is necessary for a child's academic success. Research shows that a child will benefit from having their parent show an active interest in their schooling. This ranges from K to gr12.

How to get parents involved then?

  • Increase positive communication between school and home, parents and community.
  • Maintain communication to homes.
  • Place a bulletin board near the school entrance so parents can see what has been going on in the school community. This can be extended to have a board with information of activities for families within the community.
  • Provide babysitting to enable parents to attend a school based activity.
  • Provide educational workshops for parents. There maybe opportunities to provide gardening workshops if there is a garden or green space in the school yard.
  • Have a parent volunteer room based in the school. This room may be equipped with coffee and tea and community information.
The Ontario Ministry of Education provides grants to encourage parental volunteer in schools. The details for these grants can be found at http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/parents/schools.html

Indoor Potato Project

A couple of weeks ago, I came across a website about growing potatoes indoors. We still have plenty of snow on the ground in our part of the world and the idea of fresh food made me want to give it a try. We found a potato planter at a local garden centre and dug out some seed potatoes from last years stock from the harvest. As adventurous as ever, my children and I planted out three potatoes in our newly found planter and waited. On day two, my 5 year old declared he was sure he could see some plants growing... A week later and he did! Now we are watching and waiting to see if our experiment works and we get our fresh potatoes before the snow thaws and we are able to dig out our vegetable garden.
Here's a website with some ideas for indoor potato planting.

Week two I believe and we planted a couple more seed potatoes as some did not come up. My children were watching and waiting for the potatoes to grow this afternoon. Still disappointed of the appearance of just one plant. Oh well.. Maybe it will enjoy the sunshine this week?

Well... I planted more potatoes and they all came up. I'm hoping if the weather warms up and we can put the container outside, we might get lucky with some potatoes this Spring. The bag actually looks like its too full now.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Mel Johnson School Project

This awesome project is located in a community in Northern Manitoba. The community is about 600km north of Winnipeg. They started their gardening project in 2006 with a class of 14 grade 3/4 students. Each child was given a raised flower bed that was set up in the students own home. This project started with an incredibly devoted teacher who went and visited each student in turn, giving advice on growing vegetables and weeding.Giving advice and encouragement where needed. The children were able to grow their own vegetables and give them to their families to help them eat more healthily.

The school division has been amazingly supportive of the project at the Mel Johnson school and has helped in developing curriculum. Other schools in the division have also begun gardening projects. The school reported that they have noticed how the students have reacted well towards the gardens. They noticed that the project has touched all areas of curriculum and how it has helped the students who have difficulty with academics. It has helped raise the self-esteem of the students. The school now has a greenhouse, flower beds and fruit trees in the yard too.

Teacher representative, film maker and division representatives were invited to New York, where they gave a speech about the project to the United Nations.

The school has had a DVD documentary produced about the project. The DVD trailer can be viewed on youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RS99UQRdqX0 Please take the time to view the trailer to the film. The project has inspired many young people in the community and further afield too.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

vandalism and school gardens

I have been hearing an increasing number of people worried about vandalism in school gardens. I found an interesting website that can maybe address some of those worries in dealing with potential vandalism in a school yard. http://www.popcenter.org/problems/graffiti/summary/

The big message I got from reading this website is that there are several things a school can do to try and combat graffiti and vandalism. If it is an ongoing issue, proper lighting in the areas that are being tagged can help. This would include security lighting or motion sensor lighting that comes on when it senses movement. The other major step is surveillance. Bringing community together to look at neighbourhood watch schemes etc may help in protecting areas. One website on school gardening mentioned including a community garden on the school ground site, including neighbours so that community members keep and eye out for the school garden and property. One other potential idea might be signs that are posted telling potential vandals that the garden is work of the students at the school and any vandalism will affect children.

 Does anyone have any ideas in which to combat this?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Interesting Quote...

"Tell me and I will forget,
Show me and I will remember,
Involve me and I will understand"

attributed to Confucius 450BC

If Confucius knew this so long ago, why is it that we are still only learning this fact?

school gardens can help students to learn how to grow food for a healthy diet, improve soil, protect the environment and market food for profit and advocate to others the benefits of gardening.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Acting today, Shaping tomorrow...

Just found a report drafted by a working group looking at Ontario schools environmental policy, headed by Dr Roberta Bondar. http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/curriculumcouncil/ShapeTomorrow.pdf

I also found another report, dated 2007, again on the same lines, drafted by a working group, headed by Dr. Roberta Bondar.http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/curriculumcouncil/shapingSchools.pdf

I am wondering if the two reports ever went into policy.

I would be interested in any comments anyone has on this subject?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Yikes... Monsanto does it again!


Interesting article... Last week Alfalfa and now sugar beets! What next...

Robert Bateman interview...

I was reading a Robert Bateman interview today that was published in the Oxonian Review on January 31st. In the interview he responds to a question about kids enjoying nature. 

"For example, a PhD candidate recently asked me if we should be teaching environmental problems to young people. But I say absolutely not. This will get in the way of teaching about the sheer beauty of nature. We need to get away from a situation in which children know more about the Amazonian rainforest than they do about a nearby park or street—children need to learn about the natural elements of their neighbourhood in the same way in which they would grow to know the names of their friends."

I have been wondering for a long time are we teaching children the right thing about nature and the environment. Its always about problems and how we must solve those problems. It doesn't tell us necessarily how or why, just that there are problems to be fixed. Why then are we teaching children about the Rain forest when they know nothing about their own backyard, about their own community?Richard Louv speaks of Nature Deficit Disorder and how children look for electrical outlets rather than being outside, unsupervised, playing in nature. How can we raise environmentally sensitive children if they don't play outside and learn to love nature? As E.O Wilson writes about Biophilia and that we should “fall in love with other living things” Once you have that love, all else will follow. Research suggests that in order to help create environmentally responsible adults, you have to have the children spend time outdoors to develop a love of nature. 

I have spent a lot of time outdoors. I was lucky enough to be able to go out and catch frogs in local creeks and play in the woods, unsupervised, with my friends when I was a child. I have been to some pretty awe-inspiring places and seen some beautiful parts of the world. Every time I drive around Lake Superior, there is a new view to be seen, a different lake to check out. A new Innukshuk to admire. It truly is one of the most beautiful drives in the world. 

Image of Lake Superior

The article was written by Joel Krupa and can be found at http://www.oxonianreview.org/wp/an-interview-with-robert-bateman/

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sunday, February 6, 2011

More reasons to get outside!

A new study review in Science Daily carried out by the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentisty, concluded  that getting outside to exercise is good for you.

The research team analysed data from a variety of sources, including 11 randomized control trial incorporating information from 833 adults. The study found that most trials showed an improvement in mental well-being and that exercising in natural environments was associated with greater enjoyment, together with greater enjoyment, together with decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression.

Dr Michael Depledge, senior author of the study, stated the research adds significant weight for spending more time outside in the natural environment.

Another study that caught my eye was also in the Science Daily. It stated that just five minutes of exercise in a park, working in a garden, on a nature trail or being in a green space, will benefit mental health.
The article states that activity in natural areas decreases the risk of mental illness and  improves the sense of well being. Various activities were analyzed and it found that the greatest changes occurred in the young and mentally ill, although people of all ages and social groups were found to benefit.

All good news for us who like to be outside!

More curriculum ideas...

I came across another curriculum ideas website today. Life Labs has many many curriculum ideas for integrating learning and gardening in the school environment. Please check out their website for more ideas and information.
There over 40 videos demonstrating garden instruction, activity and Life Lab history.  http://www.youtube.com/user/lifelabvideos

Another excellent resource for school grounds greening and garden ideas is Learning Through Landscapes, a UK based charity, which advises government and engages the private sector, to make the most of school yard greening. There are some research articles also on the website for evidence of how school greening has a positive impact on students. There website is listed below

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Kingfisher Lake...

I've just been to Kingfisher lake, near Thunder Bay for the first time. Its an awesome facility run by Lakehead Public Schools who owns and operates this  Outdoor Education Centre, a unique facility offering curriculum linked experiential education. It provides a multitude of year-round opportunities to instill an awareness and appreciation for nature and the environment while enhancing classroom learning.  Daytrips and residential excursions offer enriched learning that complements the Ontario Curriculum for all grade levels in Science, Biology, Geography, Art, and Literacy as well as Health and Physical Education.Amongst the facility are some beautiful log cabins, which overlook the lake.

What a fantastic place. We spent the afternoon snow shoeing in the forest on some pretty nice trails, hiking over the frozen lake and watching some people out skiing on the lake.

That made me realize just how important experiential programming is for the students at the public school board and how we should all get behind the students having this outdoor experience.

Kingfisher lake is located about 20km north of Thunder Bay. There is also a public access trail next to the school facility. Superior Hiking association has a link on their website with photos of the public trail. They call the trail an easy hike. It is about 4.5km return over easy(ish) terrain. The link to their website is http://superiorhiking.com/kingfisher/

Friday, February 4, 2011

EIC - What is it and how does it benefit students?

EIC Learning is an integrated, interconnected model, using the natural and social systems in a local community as a context for student learning. EIC is an acronym for Environment as an integrated context for learning. It is an interdisciplinary, collaborative, hands-on experiential type learning. The model was developed by the state education and environmental round table or SEER. The model had input from 12 state departments of education

There are several reported benefits for EIC Learning. These include,

  • Increased engagement and enthusiasm for learning
  • Greater pride and ownership in an accomplishment
  • Reduced discipline and classroom management.
For more information about this model of education, please see www.seer.org

Thursday, February 3, 2011

easy tips for starting a school garden...

1. Identify interested teachers or parents or if you are in a Elementary School or High School ---students. i.e., the environmental club, community partners, boys and girls club. Use community partners and interested partners to create a master design plan.

2. Create a team to develop a mission statement and a garden design. There could be a nutrition team and a garden team. Identify which classes will help in the garden. How curriculum will be used in the school. Look at the school yard and different habitats in the yard. Decide on what can be planted and where.

3. Identify the perfect spot (it should be expandable)

3. Test the soil by purchasing a soil test kit from your cooperative extension service

4. Start small: two four feet wide beds that small children can access from either side.  The beds can be raised or dug into the ground.

5. Add the perfect soil.  Find dark composted soil that is rich in nutrients.

6.  dig, plant, dig, plant and water and wait! 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Food Literacy, curriculum and more....

I came across an interesting term tonight... food literacy. It sounded to me like something to do with reading at school, so I read more. Basically food literacy is the ability to organize one's everyday nutrition in a self-determined, responsible and enjoyable way.

As society changes and people's lives are more rushed, there is a danger that knowledge about food and nutrition is lost.  More and more people know less and less about where food is coming from, how it is produced and how to cook it. This results in increasing health risks with the subsequent economic costs of poor nutrition.

With increasing food scandals and food borne illnesses ( see the FDA website on recalled foods and products), contradictory advise about diet and nutrition and the loss of food culture, more and more pressure is added onto society.

This brought me to wonder about nutrition education in schools. Do kids today know where their food comes from or even what fresh food looks like? British chef, Jamie Oliver did a test in an elementary school in West Virginia as part of his Food Revolution movement. I share with you this link. 


A 2010 study by the Dietitians of Canada reported that well-nourished children are better prepared to learn, be active, and maintain a healthy lifestyle into adulthood. This places schools in a unique position to educate students about nutrition and health while also encouraging good eating habits.
In 2010 the Government of Ontario also updated their School Food and Beverage Policy with new standards for the nutritional content of food and beverages sold in schools. By offering healthy foods and snacks through school cafeterias and vending machines students are given the opportunity to make healthy food choices. This new policy also helps to mitigate the rising incidences of obesity and Type 2 diabetes in children. 
In Ontario, several private organizations have taken the initiative to start food literacy education in schools. In Thunder Bay, Slow Foods Superior, Roots to Harvest and several others are working on food culture initiatives with students. Gardens are also planted in the schools with support from parents and enthusiastic teachers.

Below is some information about food literacy and curriculum

I've just read a BBC news article about a new program in Scotland to encourage eating local. The article is under: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-12351193

To this I also add another article about growing fruit trees on every street... Kind of makes sense!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Montessori Philosophy

Montessori Philosophy: Nature - Nurturer to the Whole Child

Dr. Maria Montessori founded a theory of education that has had a profound influence on the lives of thousands of children throughout the world since the beginning of the 20th Century. She wrote that education should "… help the individual from birth and protect his environment". From this crucial idea the whole of Montessori's theory, her recommendation for educational practice including the organisation of the environment, the curriculum and the important role of the educator, have developed and entered into the mainstream of educational thought and practice. Montessori was born in Italy in 1870, she was the first woman in Italy to become a physician, although she is best known for her work as an educator.

At its core, the Montessori philosophy is based on respect. Respect for the planet, for ourselves and each other. Many Montessori schools allow a large amount of outdoors time to stimulate curiosity and creativity and to teach about the environment in which we live.

"I would therefore initiate teachers into the observation of the most simple forms of living things, which all those aids which science gives; I would make them microscopists; I would give them a knowledge of the cultivation of plants and train them to observe their physiology; I would direct their observation to insects, and would make them study the general laws of biology. And I would not have them concerned with theory alone, but would encourage them to work independently in laboratories and in the bosom of free Nature."
- from The Advanced Montessori Method

My youngest son attends a Montessori daycare. I have been fascinated with this philosophy for some years. A few years ago, they began a greening project, which includes a garden. They took away the play structures, the asphalt, all that was unnatural and began the greening process, planting trees, shrubs, perennials and leaving natural areas too, for the children to play in. My son tells me daily of the exciting games he and his friends play ," in the woods" , where there are logs to climb on and explore and dirt to dig in. Imagination rules supreme! Children help plant vegetables in the Spring and undertake watering the garden in the summer. 
  The garden is beautiful, a work in progress, I am told, probably as all gardens should be.I am so impressed with the impact playing there has on my son.

History of School gardens

Please take a moment to watch this Youtube video. It tells the story of school gardens in the USA.


Gardening in schools can trace their history to 1811 Prussia. In 1869, school gardens in Prussia became law. In the late 1800's and early 1900's gardening in schools began in the USA. During the First World War and subsequent Second World War, garden based learning was identified as a major solution to the social needs of the country. During wartime, the food supply was threatened and several million school children were recruited to grow food for their country in their school gardens. After World War Two, gardening in schools in the USA, declined in favor of the athletic field and technology in education. 

The contemporary impetus to the school garden movement in the United States has largely been influenced by the thoughts of educators, environmentalists, and agricultural reformists. In 1995, the edible school yard was developed by chef Alice Waters, in Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, California.  The school uses the garden to teach curriculum to the children. You can read more about this project at the link below.


Greening a Curriculum...

Gardening at school can be incorporated into curriculum. I've come across many websites that include gardening curriculum for various grades. Here's a list of the ones I've found...






I've also been reading a copy of greening school grounds, creating habitats for learning. This book is a fabulous resource of why there is an importance to school grounds greening and gardens and it also includes information on getting started. There are various curriculum ideas too. The book is edited by Tim Grant and Gail Littlejohn and is published by Green Teacher and is available on their website.If I come across any further curriculum ideas, I shall post them to this blog.

Another resource is the Foodshare website from Toronto.

and http://princetonschoolgardens.pbworks.com/w/page/18530829/Other-Resources