Monday, 13 June 2016

Day 6: CFE (June 13, 2016) Windermere Secondary School Visit

Day 6: CFE (June 13, 2016)

We started our Monday with a visit to Windermere Secondary School’s school garden in Vancouver. We first met the school garden’s sponsor teacher, who introduced us to how the garden and orchard all started 10 plus years ago with collaborative efforts from students, teachers and the community. The sponsor teacher uses the garden for various subjects in his teachings including social studies, issue of sustainability, environmental stewardship, and grade 8-12 leadership projects. I am sure we can weave the garden through hands on cross-curricular learning into an elementary setting as well! Windermere was one of the very first school to have its own school garden in Vancouver School Board and continues to expand in terms of projects with student initiatives. In the past few years, they have created an orchard of various fruit trees, built mason bee houses and organized plants to attract pollinators.  

After the brief intro from the sponsor teacher, we were introduced to our tour guide of the day. Our tour guide was a grade 12 student who is actively involved with multiple school programs including the school garden, orchard, culinary arts, and bike club.  He is an apprentice within the school cafeteria and is a liaison between the garden and the cafeteria in terms of the use of sustainable produce. He hopes to pursue a career in culinary arts and have shared that he will keep the notion of environmental and food sustainability close to heart. It was amazing to see the greenhouse tucked in the middle of the garden where the students have started growing an abundance of plants from seeds.

In the middle of the greenhouse sits an interesting plastic tubing system, our tour guide shared with us that it is their hydroponic system and they hope to revive it sometime soon. He said they have used koi and goldfish in the past; and through the system, they collected fish waste (nitrogen) which in turns becomes nutrient for the garden.  However, sadly, during the winter times, they have had wildlife visitors (e.g. raccoon and squirrels) snatching away their fish. He hopes the student community who closely is working with the garden can come up with a solution to this problem so they can bring in more fish soon.

Currently, the grade 12 student is in charge of the leadership program that takes care of the garden. He was in grade 9 when he started volunteering in the garden and his interest in food sustainability grew from there. The garden is student led and teachers are available to assist and support students.  Senior students mentor and provide support to junior students who are new to the program. Within the outdoor programs, Windermere school has an organic garden, green house, earth tub, and orchard. They are the only school to have an organic compost machine built on a school ground!

Much to our surprise, these projects are all led by students. The fruit, vegetables and herbs grown are mostly used in the school cafeteria. We hear their raspberry tart is a hit, and highly in demand! The garden also sells produces for fundraising as well as donates to the Morningstar program. The maintenance and harvesting of the garden and produce are tended by dedicated student volunteer during the school years as well as throughout the summer months.

It was a great insight to see how much work goes into keeping a garden maintained and bountiful.  We learned that some of the biggest challenges of keeping the garden maintained are timing and funding. The garden has grown tremendously in the last 10 years and this requires a great deal of support from the student body and the community. The Leadership program has various community partners to help keep the garden sustained. We could see that the students are deeply devoted to their work in the garden and some have been touched and inspired by environmental sustainability as they pursue their career such as the story from our tour guide today as well as Windermere/UBC Alumni Roots on the Roof project creator.

Amy and Christina Chen  

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