It’s a busy week as most children return to school, all excited at the prospects of meeting new friends and teachers. I myself don’t have children of school age anymore but now I teach grade three students how to grow food at our community garden. I love how surprised they are at what they learn and how they are so eager to plant seeds. They just absorb everything they see and do. This week I have been preparing for my first class. We are learning about how to eat local and the challenges that come with that.
Using the BC local food chart and a planting guide from West Coast Seeds we will hold a discussion on what we could eat for dinner in a salad instead of lettuce. Since lettuce is imported from California in the winter months, what could we eat that is grown locally? Okay, I won’t kid you. Many of these children don’t care if they miss salad. It seems it’s often not part of their diet at home.
So we will talk about growing plants such as cabbage and kale to supplement our diets with greens in the winter. We may have to try some Kale out while in the garden since it is already growing in one of the school garden beds.
We will also plant some seeds for fall and spring harvesting. This month we will plant some arugula, spinach, lettuce, corn salad, radishes and kale. The children will learn to label the plants so we know what we are growing. Because it’s already September I will add a floating row cover to protect the garden from some chilly nights as the seeds try to germinate. It’s supposed to be nice and sunny next week so the seeds will love our damp soil and sunny skies.
What else will we do at the first class? The children will be starting to plant spring bulbs. We have cleared away the grass around many shrubs at the community garden and I think a display of spring Crocuses would be a welcome burst of colour in February. This way they can return for a visit in the spring and see the signs of the new season approaching. Learning about the seasons is a lesson in itself. Maybe we will see an early return of the bees to our garden.
The students will also learn about what plants need to survive. Do all plants need soil? What would happen if they had no light or no water? This should be a lively discussion and a refresher from what they learned in class. One of the most important tasks we have the children do in the garden is just to observe. At the beginning of the class we encourage them to walk the garden for ten minutes and look for changes. Then we have a discussion about what they have seen and answer any questions they may have. For some, it could the first time they have ever seen a vegetable garden. So why do I volunteer my time to do school garden classes? It’s all about sharing the passion for growing plants. To see the look of surprise on a child’s face when they see a potato pulled from below the ground to the excitement expressed at seeing a centipede. Getting outside and learning is what is all about. Who said we need a classroom?