Farming Willows schoolyard

Four Greater Victoria schools win vegetable gardens



Students at Willows Elementary School got their hands dirty at the school’s garden building day April 4.

As one of four elementary schools in Greater Victoria to win a schoolyard garden through LifeCycles’ Growing Schools project, students at Willows spent part of their day talking about gardening, having a relay race to fill four garden beds with soil, and planting seeds.

The garden building day allows as many kids as possible help build the schoolyard garden and make them feel connected to the project, Jeanette Sheehy, Growing Schools co-ordinator, said.

A group of about 20 Grade 3 and 4 students dug their hands into the dirt as volunteers from LifeCycles talked about the soil. The kids then raced to dump buckets of soil into the beds.

Teacher Katy Connelly said her students’ excitement comes from their complete involvement in the process.

“Not only did they get to choose some of the seeds and fill the beds with soil, but they will also be planting, transplanting and harvesting,” Connelly said.

Connelly’s class is one of three participating in the project at Willows.

Her class has identified two types of lettuce, cimmaron and lovelock to plant, based on their ability to grow in early spring, Connelly said.

Students have been learning about organic, sustainable gardening and this project complements the unit well because it’s not just theoretical, Connelly said.

Growing Schools aims to teach children about how food grows, where it comes from, and the issues around food security.

The classes go through a series of workshops to learn how to care for the garden and are involved in each step of the process.

“It’s an opportunity for them to understand the lifecycle of a plant and really feel connected to the food they’re eating,” Sheehy said.

The kids will first practice planting seeds in clear, plastic bags as an experiment to watch what happens in the soil as a pea sprouts, she explained.

The garden at Willows will grow different vegetables such as lettuce, carrots, and radishes. Students will move their plants outdoors in May and come June, they should be able to enjoy a salad.

While the students enjoyed running around and playing with the soil, many expressed interest to start gardening.

“It was so much fun. We had a great time playing in the soil,” Willows student Andrea Johnson said. “We’re going to plant peas. I can’t wait to see them grow.”

“I liked the (relay) activity, it was an awesome way to fill the dirt beds (and) I’m really looking forward to planting stuff in our class.” said her classmate Sara Bavington.

The Growing Schools project is in partnership with the CRD and The Keg Steakhouse and Bar. The CRD is supplying 500 plant starters, while the Keg is providing $25,000 in grants for the five gardens.

Craigflower Elementary, Cloverdale Traditional, and George Jay Elementary are the other schools that won schoolyard gardens.

The community herb garden at The Vancouver Island School of Art on Quadra Street is also part of the project.

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