Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The Orchard Garden from the Perspective of two B.Ed students

Beauty. Peacefulness. Tranquility. Colour. Diversity. Abundance. All these words described our first impression of the Orchard Garden. What is this place in the middle of the hustle and bustle of campus life? A place of such freshness, where biodiversity can be seen, heard, felt, and smelled—all five minutes by foot from Scarfe!

Our time in the Orchard Garden has been filled with exploration and learning, in a sense a great mirror of the education process itself. We began our time by investigating the many facets of the garden, using the informative workshop series documents created by the Orchard Garden team. These followed the entire food cycle: from prepping the garden beds, to growth, to harvest, to preparing and eating a meal, and finally returning the end products to the compost bin—so they could become soil anew.

baby leek, ready to be "hilled"
Once introduced to the garden we spent time investigating and dreaming up activities for students to learn within the garden. With a bit of thought it’s easy to discover how lessons learned from the garden can be applied to lesson plans across teaching areas. Math abounds in measuring plant growth and seed counts. There is real art in nature’s designs. A garden’s bounty literally fuels healthy eating and home economics. Market gardens and Community Supported Agriculture provide interesting business models. Compost is living biology. The possibilities are endless!

Russian blue potatoes
Of course a lot can also be learned from getting one’s hands dirty, so part of our practicum was spent pulling weeds, conditioning the soil, not to mention planting potatoes, kale, leeks, and green onions. We spied out all sorts of bizarre creatures within the soil who play an integral role in its health. And to think—all of this was accomplished right in our back yard!

Importantly, the Orchard Garden also taught us that biodiversity extends into the social and cultural realms. Gardens are not just spaces for learning how to grow vegetables, they are places ripe for cultivating thought and reflection. The Orchard Garden particularly embraces this notion, and it was exciting to learn about the remarkable history of Chinese market gardens on Musqueam First Nations land (a history marked by an honorary Chinese Market Garden site at the Orchard Garden). As well, we were fortunate to be active participants in the Garden’s outdoor classroom installation, helping scythe cover crop and prepare the soil for the next incarnation of “Threads Sown, Grown, and Given”—as the site evolves to continue exploring the complicated history of school gardening.

Opening the bee hive: all is well!
With the garden as our guide, we learned through our lived experience. We learned that some of the best music comes not from a stereo but from the daily warblings of a loyal branch-topping sparrow (we nicknamed Henry). We learned that there are multiple varieties of kale, each of which have unique flavours, textures and appearances. We learned that a plot the size of the orchard garden, right in the middle of campus life, has the potential to produce enough food to nourish campus-based caf├ęs and dozens of families. And we learned the value, impossible to replicate through sitting behind a desk, of place-based learning. Taking the classroom outdoors and into the garden—under the big blue sky—invigorated the senses while renewing spirits, and opened a world of educational opportunities.

We’re thankful for our time spent at the Orchard Garden, and wish a stint out between the raised beds and honeybees were somehow mandatory for all educators!
Indeed the only disappoint we took away from our days in the garden was the knowledge that the Orchard Garden’s future is uncertain, what with current funding soon coming to an end and a sprawling campus hungry for continued development. It would truly be sad to lose such a special place; we hope to be able to bring our classes to the Orchard Garden for years to come. 

by James & Pamela

Pamela planting leek
James "garden style"

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