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.

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