We love our school garden because it is beautiful and the strawberries, tomatoes, kale leaves, peas, red radish, and lettuce all grow there.
– Michelle, Grade 1 student, Thunderbird Elementary School
Started by SPEC volunteers in 2008, the SPEC School Gardens Program brings food gardens and food education to around a dozen different schools across Vancouver.
Our goal is simple: to connect children to their food, to each other, to nature, and to their community.
The School Gardens Program provides the opportunity for students to learn about food security and how to grow their own organic fruits and veggies, while teachers learn to incorporate fun and thought provoking agricultural topics into their curriculum. Engaging students in interactive, hands-on food and garden programming has proven to be a powerful way to engage children in various science, social studies, math, and health and nutrition topics already written into the BC curriculum.
Check out the work we do on Instagram!
Classes are involved with the School Gardens Program for the duration of the school year, and cover topics such as 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.
We helped establish organic food gardens and/or support food literacy at:
Bayview Community School — Britannia Secondary — Carnarvon Elementary — Champlain Heights Community School — 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.
I am so grateful and appreciative of the SPEC school garden program. The students loved it when the gardener came in and they learned so much from her! I appreciated the professionalism, preparedness and information provided. We all enjoyed the hands on activities. It's a wonderful way to learn. We would love to have more sessions!
– anonymous from teachers survey
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
My favourite part of gardening was having the salad because it was delicious and we grew it ourselves. I liked it because it was organic and fresh from the garden.
– Emily, Grade 7 student, General Brock Elementary School
My six year old son had the pleasure of participating in the SPEC School Gardens Program during the 2016/2017 school year. We were frequently regaled with stories of all of the wonderful plants the children were nurturing, and of the many happy insects they were able to house in their bug hotel! He has proudly brought us to see the garden on more than one occasion, and loves harvesting the herbs to add to our creations at home. For an active and inquisitive little boy, an opportunity to learn in an outdoor environment is so extremely valuable. We are so thankful to SPEC, Nikoo, their many corporate sponsors and our son’s amazing teacher, Susan Jung, for their commitment to finding creative ways to facilitate learning.
– Parent of Grade 1 Bayview Elementary School student
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.
Past and present funders include:
Acme Delivery Company, BC Gaming Community Grant, BC Hydro, Canada Summer Jobs, Canadian Tire (Bentall), Click, Gaia Green, Gow-Jarrett and Millard Family, The Hamber Foundation, Home Depot, Lululemon Athletica, Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics, School Parents, SPEC individual donors, TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, Telus Community Board, Think & Eat Green @ School, UBC Botanical Garden, Vancouver Foundation, West Coast Seeds, & Whole Foods Market.
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.
School Gardens Program Coordinator
Sharlene Singh - sharlene(at)spec(dot)bc(dot)ca