SCHOOL GARDENS PROGRAM
Why are School Gardens so important? School Gardens are gaining ground as important green spaces for learning, especially outside in nature. These living classrooms engage students to reconnect to the natural world, through observation and exploration of biodiversity, plant life, nature cycles and food literacy. Gardening has been shown to improve mental, physical and emotional health, improve focus, patience, teamwork and encourage students to make healthier food choices.
SPEC volunteers started the School Gardens Program over 10 years ago to introduce both food gardens and food education to school age children. Since the inception of the program, we have helped establish food gardens, support food literacy and lead environmental education across 12 different schools across Vancouver. We have seen a strong and growing interest in this area as we continue to expand to other schools.
Our goal is to connect children to their food, to each other, to nature, and to their community.
The School Gardens Program is facilitated by the School Gardens Program Coordinator and runs from September to June each school year in both elementary and high schools.
On average, each lesson runs from 45 to 50 minutes. Our lessons incorporate the re-designed BC Curriculum to engage students in fun and interactive, hands-on food and garden activities on topics such as soils, composting, seed saving and travel, flowers and pollination, beneficial insects, garden planning, design and native plants focused on the areas of science, art and math along with the Core Competencies
We helped establish organic food gardens and/or support food literacy at:
Admiral Seymour Elementary - Bayview Community School - Britannia Secondary - Carnarvon Elementary - Champlain Heights Community School - Ecole des Colibris - Garibaldi Annex - General Brock Elementary - Henry Hudson Elementary School - John Norquay Elementary - Kitsilano Secondary School - L'Ecole Bilingue - Lord Selkirk Elementary - Queen Elizabeth Elementary - Queen Mary Elementary - Simon Fraser Elementary - Sir Wilfred Grenfell Community School - Thunderbird Elementary -Tillicum Community Annex School
There is a growing demand from teachers, parents and schools to get involved in the program. Our challenge is to obtain the necessary funding to cover lesson expenses as well as expenses related to garden materials and tools.
View SPEC School Gardens Projects in a larger map.
It is so wonderful to have someone from SPEC who can guide us and organize lessons/activities at appropriate times. I find myself integrating the garden into my teaching practice a lot more than I used to. Thanks to SPEC, I am more aware of what is in the garden and how I can use it as an outdoor learning space. I am constantly encouraging my kids to take care of our Earth, and the garden is one way to do that (ie. composting, growing own food, insects) – anonymous from teachers survey
It's really fun to see how our hard work growing the vegetables and plants has paid off and how we can make some yummy food for the rest of the school. – Ella, Grade 6 student, Henry Hudson Elementary School
In 2015, SPEC published a garden curriculum package, named Green Thumbs at School: SPEC Food Garden Lesson Book comprised of 9 lesson plans for teachers, activity sheets, and 12 colourful posters. The lessons teach children about soils, worms, composting, how seeds travel, seed saving, leaves and how they work, flowers and pollinators, insects in the garden, and planning and designing food gardens.
The lessons support the BC Ministry of Education Integrated Resource Package (IRP) Guidelines for Science. These lesson plans will be used by SPEC educators to continue delivering high quality lessons to partnering schools, as well as accessible via the internet and in print to teachers and other organizations to use to deliver similar lessons in other classrooms in Vancouver and beyond. SPEC's School Gardens Program is linked to the new BC Curriculum K to 7 Science Area of Learning and Core Competencies. A number of these lessons have been translated to French and you can find them here (Lesson 3, lesson 7 and lesson 9).
The development of the Green Thumbs at School lesson book was made possible by funding provided by the Vancouver Foundation.
Thank you to the funders and businesses for their in-kind donations to our program for the 2019-2020 school year.
Acme Delivery Company, Art Knapp Surrey, BC Gaming Community Grant, BC Hydro, Federal Government through Canada Summer Jobs and NSERC PromoScience, Click, Gandy's Home Hardware, The Hamber Foundation, Lee Valley Tools, TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, Think & Eat Green @ School, UBC Botanical Garden, West Coast Seeds, Whole Foods Market, School Parents and SPEC individual donors.
Looking to start an organic school food garden or new ideas for your existing project? Check out SPEC's School Gardens Start Up Guide.
SPEC now offers consultations for existing or planned school food gardens and orchards. The consultation consists of an on-site visit to discuss and determine best garden locations, aspect, water sources, planting schedule, best suited fruit and vegetable varieties, composting systems, materials sourcing, maintenance planning and funding sources. For existing gardens recommendations will be made for improvements and possible expansion. A follow-up written report will also be included. Fees are based on a sliding scale and funding might be available, though limited, to support lower income schools. Please contact us for more information.
For further inquiries about the School Gardens Program, please email our School Gardens Program Coordinator, Sharlene Singh