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.

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/