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Comox Valley school district expands on gardens, green initiatives

Pro-D for teachers on gardening program, studies with post-secondary schools in the works
The school district is looking at more programming around school gardens. File photo-supplied

School District 71 has been looking for ways to bring students back to their roots, at least when it comes to food.

It has been developing a food strategy to integrate food and gardening into the classroom on a broader district level.

Director of instruction Vivian Collyer provided an update for school trustees at the latest board meeting. Part of it consists of programming plans for elementary, middle and secondary grades. As more programming is created at the lower grades, she said, it will build interest at the secondary level in years to come.

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As far as other work, district environment and outdoor learning lead teacher Serina Allison is working with a researcher on a classroom garden project. The plan is to work on a customized professional day series to do monthly. Teachers would go through the yearly cycle with students, looking at how to manage gardens, even over the summer. Side projects associated with this include pollination projects, seed collection, collaborative projects and play-based learning for younger kids.

“There’s so many pieces around gardening,” she said. “A lot of it has to do with what’s meaningful for the kids at the school.”

Collyer touched on a study in which the district is taking part, with Royal Roads University, UBC and the University of Puerto Rico. The partners are collaborating on a youth climate resilience project.

“It’s an opportunity to work with educators in Puerto Rico who are also working with youth,” she said.

She also mentioned a professional learning series by Allison and career lead teacher Dawn Anderson on how thinking can be used to address climate change. It is aimed at teachers for grades 5 to 9 and is affiliated with the Royal Roads project.

“These are some of the things we have in the works,” Collyer said.

As to what needs to be done for projects like a gardening program, she said they still need to gather input from other groups such as Indigenous education on how they want to be a part, as well as work with facilities staff on gardening space. She added that they need leadership and a budget at the district level, particularly during the start-up.

The board was receptive to news of the projects in the works.

“It really is wonderful news,” trustee Janice Caton said.

She talked about the many garden fundraisers by parent advisory councils at schools. However, she said the situation varies from school to school, and she expressed concern about turnover and maintaining program continuity, but supported the idea of treating gardens as places of everyday learning.

“It does align with our strategic plan,” she said.

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