16 July 2013

L'Ecole Bilingue and Student Teachers

In partnership with the Think & Eat Green At Schools Project and thanks to the Vancouver Foundation, SPEC worked with Student Teachers in UBC's Bachelor in Education program to enhance student experiences and introduce new teachers to the world of School Gardens. 

Here is what one of the student teachers had to say on the experience "First of all, I would never think it would be possible to have a garden at school, let alone harvesting and sharing the produce with (the) children. Also, I learned how to manage a harvest with young children and how enjoyable and educational it can be for them." Students facilitated lessons on pollination and helped with harvests including potatoes.

In another student teacher's words "I loved the potato harvest with the Ks especially, the whole event was magical from the students trying to guess how many potatoes they would find (8-50 were the guesses) to them exclaiming identically as each was uncovered." How many potatoes did these little guys unearth? 208! From 16 seed potatoes!

12 July 2013

L'Ecole Bilingue Summer Harvest!

Students at L’École Bilingue harvested much of the spring crops they had planted on June 18th!  Grade 1s collected their giant sunflower plants to take home and care for in their own gardens.  Kindergarten students harvested their early potato crop and were surprised to find over 200 potatoes despite last yield of only 14. Grade 2 students pruned the garlic scapes off the tops of their plants in order to allow the bulbs to fully mature, while Grade 3 students harvested peas, corn mache (a type of lettuce) and basil.  A second Kindergarten class also harvested the following day, with nasturtiums, curly lettuces and kale collected in preparation for the next day’s harvest party. 

The students were brought out to the beds in small groups by UBC Student Teachers doing a Community Field Based Experience practicum, but the planting and care of the garden over the past few months had been done by students, parent volunteers and Marnie Newell of SPEC.  The harvest was the culmination of months of planting, watering, weeding, and much watching and waiting.  Students were thrilled to get their hands dirty, learn about the plants they were harvesting, and prepare the vegetables for shared consumption. 

The process was finished with all the classes in sharing and eating the crops! The 3rd grade class ate a salad from their combined mache, basil and peas and a scape vinaigrette, prepared by their classroom teacher Alison.  The Grade 2 students brought their scapes home for sharing with their families.  Students feasted on roasted potatoes and salad with scape vinaigrette. The students tasted the school garden’s bounty, with many enjoying second helpings of the salad and vinaigrette which they had initially been reluctant to try. 

New plants were planted by another Grade 3 class on Thursday where the potatoes had been, and plans are now underway for properly staking the summer crops that remain, covering the tomatoes to protect from blight, and creating a watering and weeding schedule among volunteer parents and students.

19 June 2013

Potato Harvest at QE

June 18 every class who had planted potatoes came out to harvest. Organized chaos! The tubs were dumped out, potatoes gathered, counted and weighed. The results put on a beautiful chart, created by our UBC Education Practicum Students.

This year yields were low - approximately 25kg, of mainly small potatoes. There were a number of probably reasons - poor soil, growing conditions, watering issues, weather issues, and timing - a few more weeks and the crop would have been much better. Catriona Gordon from SPEC often says that one of the greatest challenges for the school garden program is the short growing season of September to June.

Still the potatoes will taste great roasted up by parent volunteers for the harvest festival on Thursday June 20.

Garlic Harvest at QE

On June 5, Green School, and the UBC Practicum Students harvested most of the garlic. The crop was great, big juicy bulbs, which were headed for the kitchen to be made into delicious garlic bread by Claudio and his team, for the upcoming harvest fest.

28 May 2013

Greens Sale at Queen Elizabeth

The weather has been so cooperative that Queen Elizabeth was faced with a glut of greens.  After classes had harvested and eaten salads for afternoon snacks the boxes were still full, so they held a pop-up greens sale before and after school one day.  4 large plastic tubs of greens were harvested and at $2 and $4 a bag, sold out almost immediately, raising over $150 for the QE School Garden Fund.  

Now plans are underway for a bigger and better greens sale next year....


Many collaborations have grown up because of Catriona's involvement with the school gardens.  Recently Queen Elizabeth donated two flats of strawberry plants to Thunderbird garden.

Catriona and a flat of strawberries

just needs a bit more sunshine...
Through her contact with Russ Evans, of Sir Charles Tupper Secondary School's woodworking program, planter boxes, storage units and 3 bin composters have been built and installed in many schools throughout the city, often with the Tupper students mentoring and leading elementary students through the construction process. 
part of a composter, note the wire mesh for rodent proofing


Mentoring moment

pre work team meeting

13 May 2013

Queen Elizabeth Annex Garden Consultation and compost workshop

Queen Elizabeth Annex started developing a school garden a few years ago.  This year, one of the parents suggested bringing SPEC in to consult on the garden, and teach some classes.  The entire school, K-3, spent the day with Catriona learning about “what lives in your compost” , finding all the critters that live there, and setting up a composting system for the school.  A group of active parents have built a 3-bin compost system, and now the school is actively diverting waste from the landfill, and will be using it to enrich their food garden.  The school is hoping to bring SPEC on board next year to teach more classes, and to make sure the new Kindergarden students get a lesson on composting as they start their elementary education.

30 April 2013

Spring Planting at L’Ecole-Bilingue

Last week Marnie was busy at L'Ecole-Bilingue.  Kindergarteners who previously explored the importance of soil got out into the garden to plant spring crops: nasturtiums, carrots, kale, lettuce and peas.  The keen group were eager to plant and see how the plants grow.  They learned about the different parts of plants and are excited to taste fruits, roots, leaves and even flowers in a few months time.

little seed, little hole

Has it grown yet?

Garlic Bed


wheelbarrow herb planter
spring crops

25 April 2013

The thing kids say

Yesterday I was working with a small group of grade 2 kids fertilizing and hilling up the potatoes, and took the opportunity to quiz them on what the garden means to them...

"It's just all so amazing"
"We garden to save the planet"
"What, some schools don't have gardens?  That is so sad"
"because of the Pac Choi and Kale flowers" said one kid with a mouth full of yellow blossoms!

These kids are lucky, they have been involved with Catriona and the QE school garden since Kindergarden, so it makes sense to them that people should grow food, appreciate nature, and eat well.

mmm, yummy nutritious kale flowers!

~ Allison

16 April 2013

SPEC in the classroom

In addition to creating school gardens, Catriona Gordon, and Marnie Newall, the SPEC School Garden Educators, are constantly in the classroom, teaching a variety of science-curriculum based courses they have developed over the last 4 years.

In early March the topic is potato planting, which starts with a lesson on plant propagation via seed, bulb, cuttings and tubers then moves on to a talk about what part of a plant is a potato.  Finally potatoes are planted in tubs in the classrooms, to get a head start on the season, to be moved outside when the weather warms in mid-April, and eaten in June at the school garden harvest parties.

In Mid March students direct seed cold season crops outside in the garden beds. A few weeks later the students get a lesson on warm season crops, planted inside, and raised on windowsills or under lights, to go out in late May.
In the Spring, the students get to create their own imaginative garden designs, which are often posted around the schools. 

Throughout the school year Marnie and Catriona can be found digging through handfuls of compost to see what critters live there


Making dyes or teas from native plants

Talking about plant biology

School Gardens Project Soil Exploration4
Or studying soil science with a group of French Immersion 6 year olds

The SPEC School Garden Curriculum is as diverse as gardening, science and nature itself.  If you want to know more, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


18 January 2013

January Garlic Planting

A lot of the garlic planted in the fall at QE failed, or was eaten or damaged, so Green School replanted it one during lunchbreak last week.  First Catriona gave a lesson on the lifecycle of garlic, and how to plant it, then  the kids grabbed tools and got to work.  Finally the bed was covered in straw to protect the emerging shoots from the elements.  Half the sidewalk was covered too, so Catriona and Allison stayed behind to clean up!. 

The garlic planted now won't be as big as that planted in the fall, but replanting ensures there will be plenty to go around at the June harvest festival.