The Kids in the Garden program brings facilitators into schools to work with different classes, support a school’s garden, as well as build a culture and confidence around gardening and sustainable food awareness in the school environment. We lead seasonally-appropriate lessons with students from kindergarten to grade seven and integrate curriculum concepts to deepen learning.
Beyond our ten in-class sessions, we also provide schools with an aeroponic growing tower for students (and teachers!) to learn how to grow food indoors through the winter. Upcoming this year, we are also adding a summer employment program to students to maintain the garden through July and August, as well as a breakfast program in each school we work in.
These sessions are a combination of new sessions which we think integral to food systems learning, as well as lessons that we have been using for years and modified to the new BC Curriculum. When planning our lessons, we take great care to promote inclusion of all learning needs and embodying the First Peoples principles of learning.
1. Preparing the Garden for Winter: Final harvests, planting garlic and cover crop, and adding compost and mulch
2. Local Food and Baking: Healthy adaptations, basic baking and eating with the seasons
3. All about Seeds: The importance of saving seed, different kinds of seeds and seed dispersal
4. Worms & Vermicomposting: We bring worms into the classroom and discuss their habitat needs and how to have a worm composting bin anywhere
5. Mason Bees: Different kinds of bees, habitat, their importance
6. Spring Planting: Planning our garden and planting it out!
7. Soil and pH: Measuring composition of our soil and how alkaline/acidic it is
8. Edible Weeds & Wilds: Nature walk where we sample local wild foods and learn how to identify
plants, a few things safe to eat
9. Honey Bees: We will bring in an observation hive and discuss what honey bees need (how are they different from mason bees) and why are they important.
10. Harvest Celebration: harvest, cook, celebrate our hard work and learning and share with our community.
This year, in addition to our ten sessions, students will be able to get involved with an innovative new technology: aeroponic growing towers. Several of our partner schools will receive an aeroponic growing tower, generously donated by our sponsor, LoyaltyOne, where students will be responsible for the management of the system and maintaining a healthy vertical garden from seed to plate.
Having a garden inside the classroom brings context to science and mathematics. It allows students to use their prediction, record-keeping and data analysis skills. By bringing in these systems into schools, students not only see and eat the benefits of this technology but learn how to use it, from balancing pH to operating LED lights for growing.
With the majority of today’s population living in urban areas, growing food aeroponically is one of the many skills that can help prepare students for their future. Research has shown that aeroponic growing systems use 2% of the water, increase yields by 30%, and grow food up to three times faster than traditional growing methods. Due to the human impact on the climate, this may well be the way the food of the future is grown.
By having youth grow and cook their own food, they can experience first-hand how engaging with food and the community contributes to healthier people, community sustainability, and the environment overall. Though we will be teaching how to use the vertical gardens, students act as the primary caretakers, allowing them to take on accountability, responsibility, as well as gain teamwork skills as they work together towards the goal of growing good food.
In July and August 2019, students from schools involved with Kids in the Garden will be able to take part in our summer employment program. Depending on the size of the school garden, 2-3 elementary students will be paired with high-school students as mentors, and together, they will maintain the school garden. Previously, summer gardens were left to parent volunteers to manage, if schools were lucky. In this way, we are using the garden to its full capacity: students will be able to participate in garden maintenance training, learn employable skills, build character and confidence, make friends, and take home fresh food.
The children of today are the adults of tomorrow, so how can we serve the children in our community to best prepare them for their future? We believe that providing students with opportunities to build their confidence, skills, resumé and community connections is the key foundation of building a strong community in the long term. By using gardening as the means, students learn about environmentalism and food security. Studies have proven that those who spend more time in nature are more likely to care for the environment. By learning by doing, students can create lifelong habits, values, and skills to take them perhaps on a career path, to share knowledge with their families, or make healthier lifestyle choices.
In the short term, students and parent volunteers are welcome to take home garden harvests. In this way, households can see an increase in access to healthy and local food. Further, students gain interview, time management, and teamwork skills, as well as will be provided with a reference letter upon successful completion.
The Kids in the Garden Program aims to adapt to the needs of all students involved. We work with EAs and teachers to understand the needs of individual students and the classroom overall.
Further, with schools interested in the program and cannot afford the full program, we work to find funding or subsidize the cost to make the program so it is available for everyone.
The Kids in the Garden program was previously known as the Richmond Schoolyard Society, and was adopted into the Richmond Food Security Society in 2017. The Schoolyard Society was a valued member of the Richmond community for many years, founded and run by food educator and chef Ian Lai (now RFSS Executive Director), who has over twelve years experience teaching food and garden programs with children. The program has grown and because of its success, RFSS has hired a full-time Education Program Manager to organize and facilitate the program. The program is sustainable thanks for our many community supporters and the program fee. The program fee is $3000/ school/ year. Contact us to sign up!
Kids in the Garden is fortunate to have many community partners behind it. We work closely with the Richmond Food Bank, Richmond School District, City of Richmond, and Vancouver Coastal Health. Other educational programs have allowed us to collaborate with other community partners: the Gulf of Georgia Cannery, The Sharing Farm, Richmond Public Library, Rotary, VanCity, TD Bank of Canada, Richmond Addiction Services Society, amongst other amazing community members and organizations.
Of course, we couldn’t do what we do without amazing teacher champions and administrative staff in schools who work tirelessly to give their students the best education.