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  • Writer's pictureHélène Descoteaux

Sunshine + sunflower seeds: November in the School Garden

November has whisked by in a whirlwind of vibrant colours, inspiring growth, and discoveries within our school gardens. As we reflect on this exciting month, we're thankful to share the many highlights that your support has helped us with.

Food literacy word of the month for our Little Green Thumbs: ACCLIMATIZATION. In the garden this means helping the plants get used to their new home by giving them the right care, just like making new friends at a new school. It's about helping the plants feel comfortable in their new home, so they can grow well and be happy. We've been using this word often this month.

We have a whole new generation of Little Green Thumbs in Ms. Bruhwiler and Miss Tucker's kindergarten classes. The students are learning about the fascinating world of worms by studying earthworms and red wigglers in our gardens and composter. We created a worm home, just like a lasagna garden. Each day, we take out our magnifying glasses, uncover the worm house (they like it dark) and learn about their habitat, and measure how much they eat. We have shared our worm home with several classes to learn. We all love worms.

Our Intergenerational Garden Class and Miss Comtois Grade 4/5 class embarked on a series of exciting garden adventures. Our weekly intergenerational program is fantastic and heartwarming. We are proud to be leaders in this initiative. It's wonderful to see the seniors and students working together to create a beautiful and productive garden space. Craft sessions, like origami envelope-making, not only promote creativity, problem solving and team work but also offer a sustainable way to package and sell saved seeds which we will sell at the Christmas Market.We have been planting tulip bulbs in the Intergenerational Jewel Garden. It's sure to bring a burst of colour and fragrance in the spring. We all agree that planning to sell Beeswraps is a great way to promote eco-friendly products at the Christmas Market. We've been busy creating them with Miss Hirst Grade 3 Class aswell.

Our kindergartens have been taking care of indoor basil plants this year. It not only introduces students to herbs and their uses in cooking but also teaches them about responsibility and nurturing living things. It's great fun to see the students sample a bit of the plants and gently press the leaves to experience their fragrance and feel the moisture on their fingers. Their tongues and noses are having a wonderful time exploring and enjoying these new discoveries. Ten students out of 16 love their basil. We're sure everyone will love basil by the end of the year.

Our weeding sessions took on a whole new dimension, transforming into engaging learning experiences. Together with our young gardeners, we uncovered the hidden treasures of our garden - plants like plantain, often mistaken as weeds. We revealed the remarkable properties of plantain as nature's first-aid kit. Wild sorrel is growing like weeds as well. We've been happy to snack on them as we were busy digging up the plantain. This year, an unexpected challenge appeared in the form of straw seeds that threatened to overtake our Food Forest. Our resourceful Green Thumbs devised a clever solution. We used cardboard and wood chips to protect our garden from the straw invasion! Bravo Ms. Thompsons Class and Miss Hirst Grade 2 and 3 classes.

Hurray to our After-school Gardening Club consisting of 1st to 3rd graders who planted over 100 garlic cloves. They followed instructions from the garlic packages, measured rows, depths, and spacings with string and a 6-inch template, carefully planting the cloves with bone meal, soil, and compost. When my students need very little instruction from me and can work as a team, problem-solving, respecting each other, and building confidence, it's a teacher's proudest moment.

Our cooking class has been a hub of culinary exploration. Students have been mastering the art of creating "meals in a jar," instilling life skills such as healthy eating and meal planning. They've also gained hands-on experience in dehydrating grapes from our garden and cranberries from Ahousaht, crafting their own raisins in our trusty dehydrator. We've embraced the farm-to-table philosophy by juicing apples and carrots, providing our students with delicious and nutritious treats. A fun surprise was learning that it takes two apples to make a single cup of apple juice, a lesson in healthy eating that has left our young taste buds asking for me. Their enthusiasm and willingness to try different foods and ways of preparing and preserving are inspiring. Special thanks to Heather Shoule, from Port Alberni and her bees, we all had a huge chunk of honey comb to take home to our families.

Last spring, we planted seeds of pumpkins, corn, sunflowers, beans, and squash. We watched them as they sprouted, carefully transplanting into larger containers until they grew stronger and were ready for the bottom garden. We created homes for each companion group, watered and tended to them daily all spring, eager to see and harvest from them on our return in September. Unfortunately, due to the drought and our inability to provide consistent watering during the summer, our corn, pumpkins, and squash did not make it. It was disheartening for our students after months of nurturing these little plants. Thanks to our summer volunteer team for adding extra mulch of shredded paper and wood chips. Our sunflowers and beans emerged as true champions and companions, producing abundantly. The students eagerly devoured both the large pods and beans right off the vine, and we have ample seeds for this spring's planting.

Although the birds feasted on the sunflower seeds this year, we found solace in the sunflower petals' beauty and the strength of their stalks, which supported our bean plants. It was a valuable lesson for us, reminding us that Mother Nature plays a huge role in the success of our crops. We are grateful to learn that beans are resilient in the face of drought, and we plan to plant many more of them in the coming spring.

Despite the watchful eyes of curious crows and ravens, our ground cover transplanting has been a success this year. In the past, our outdoor seed plantings often fell victim to hungry birds overnight. However, we adopted a new approach this year. We began by planting the seeds indoors, nurturing them until they sprouted, and then they embarked on their ACCLIMATIZATION journey in our greenhouse. After a few weeks of preparation, they were finally ready to face the great outdoors. We're thrilled to report that all our ground cover is still thriving and growing each day. As winter draws near, we're diligently preparing our gardens, protecting the plants with cozy seagrass and leaves, ensuring that those who endure the cold months are tenderly cared for. Huge thank you to our Intergeneration Club Seniors members for volunteering to head out twice to collect sea grass and collecting leaves to cover our gardens.

November was one of our busiest months in the garden, marked by the harvest and preparations for winter. Year after year, your unwavering support has been the cornerstone of our success. Thanks to your generosity, students ranging from grade 1 to grade 7 have blossomed into skilled gardeners, passionate scientists, aspiring farmers, and future leaders in the food industry. Your belief in the potential of our children's garden is not only helping us cultivate plants but also nurturing young minds, paving the way for a brighter and more sustainable future. Thank you for being an integral part of our garden's success.

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