This time the lucky school is Thunderbird Elementary, located in the northeast corner of Vancouver. On
February 24th, the grounds on the east side of this inner-city school, described as “a “mud-pit” by one of the school’s teachers in a Vancouver Sun article, began their transformation into a beautiful school garden.
Catriona Gordon, the School Gardens coordinator for SPEC (Society Promoting Environmental Conservation), is the driving force behind the project, but SPEC is not doing it alone – it is a true community effort, as it should be. It all started when a student at Tupper Secondary School saw the school’s plea for help in the news, and decided to do something about it. He spoke to his woodworking teacher Russ Evans, who contacted SPEC, and that was the start of many planning sessions with Thunderbird Principal Henry Peters and teacher Birgid Lehmann.
By the end of the day on February 24th, the students of Thunderbird and Tupper had built 5 large planter boxes and filled them with organic soil, braving the snow and rain in good cheer - thanks in part to the hot drinks and food prepared by PAC members and community volunteers! Every grade participated, from kindergarteners carrying small buckets of soil to grade 7’s hammering and measuring. The following week, students started planting cold crops in the planter boxes, as well as potatoes in their classrooms. This garden is an opportunity for students to experience the fun and beauty of growing and harvesting their own organic fruits and veggies, and strengthen their connection to nature.
As a testament to the value of school gardens, a number of organizations chose to donate wood, garden supplies, seeds and food, for a total of $4,000! Special thanks to major supporters FP Innovations, Hewer Home Hardware and Home Depot. We’d also like to thank Rona, West Coast Seeds, Gaia Garden, Starbucks, and Cob’s Bread who all answered our call for donations to make this project a reality. Last but not least, thank you to Queen Elizabeth, Thunderbird’s sister school, for donating a large cedar planter, and to the Vancouver School Board for transporting wood from Tupper to Thunderbird. Thank you all!
August 9th, 2011
Kitsilano Garlic Harvest
Yesterday morning we had a bountiful harvest of garlic at the Kitsilano Secondary garden. Twenty kids from Kicks for Kids Daycamp (ages 6 and 7) came by to pull up the pungent bulbs. There was a brief demonstration on garlic braiding and we discussed the importance of storing our summer crops for use throughout the year. In a couple of weeks when the garlic has cured the kids will bring their own bulbs home for planting, cooking, and amateur vampire hunting.
After the harvest, we reseeded the beds with some hardy vegetables. The kids chose turnips and spinach from the seeds provided. We then watered the garden and spent a bit of time looking at insects.
It's truly inspiring to spend time in the garden with such animated and inquisitive children. Many of whom were excited about the idea of planting their garlic bulbs and watching them grow over the fall, winter, and spring. Thanks again to Kicks for Kids for all your enthusiasm. Hope to see you all gardening again soon!
July 28th, 2011
School Gardens Summer Update
You might not know it from the recent weather, but summer is indeed in full swing and our school gardens are in full bloom. It's amazing to see the awesome network of community members who are helping to sustain the gardens during the summertime. We've had support from Jericho Kids Club, Point Grey Community Church, Brock Junction Daycare, and Kitsilano Kicks for Kids day-camp, as well as students, parents, teachers, and staff at all 6 schools.
There has been plenty of work, but the rewards have been delicious. Weeding, watering, and fertilizing are a joy when there are juicy strawberries and spicy nasturtium leaves to munch on. We have also sown seedlings at the YWCA rooftop garden downtown. They will be ready to transplant into the gardens just as students reluctantly slink back into their classrooms for the new school year.
A brighter August lies ahead and we are eager to continue harvesting and sharing our crops. Many thanks to all the gardeners who have pitched in this summer, masters and neophytes alike! More updates to come soon.
March 21st, 2011
SPEC Helps Queen Elizabeth Elementary Plant School Orchard
Queen Elizabeth elementary school now has a beautiful Orchard Garden! The orchard complements the vegetable garden that SPEC helped the school build and plant last year.
Almost 300 students from kindergarten to grade 7 rolled up their sleeves to create this orchard. The students were so excited about the project that in addition to participating during class time, many of them would come roaring out to the orchard during recess and lunch to see how they could help, even though they were met with rain, hail, sleet and snow! Grade 7 students volunteered to wheelbarrow more than 15 cubic yards of topsoil and 15 cubic yards of bark mulch – that’s a lot of wheelbarrows! There was also a Saturday work-party during which parents, staff and students scavenged logs from the beach which they sawed, hauled into pick-up trucks and brought to the garden to use for raised beds.
All this hard (but fun!) work translates into 7 fruit trees (5 apples, 2 plums), 25 ever-bearing strawberry plants, 20 fruit bushes (including blueberries and raspberries), 2 grape vines and one kiwi vine. It is a beautiful space with decorative driftwood pieces and bark mulch paths that students can explore to watch spring transform the garden, and learn about the beauty of growing and harvesting their own food.
The orchard was truly a community effort. In addition to students, parents and staff from Queen Elizabeth (including star teacher Natasha Tousaw!), participants included supportive VSB Grounds staff who helped dig the holes for the fruit trees, enthusiastic students from nearby Jules Quesnel elementary, and of course our amazing Catriona Gordon, SPEC’s school gardens coordinator. The garden was generously funded with a grant from Evergreen Foundation, as well as donations in-kind from SB Treeworks and Arts Nursery.
If you’re in the neighbourhood, please drop by and have a look at this beautiful new orchard!