Harvesting life lessons at school

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By Emily Doyle

Perhaps in your lifetime you remember a break from school during harvest season so all hands could get outside and reap the rewards of our short, but productive, growing season.

Today, a number of schools in the province are keeping this tradition alive with their school gardens. The opportunity to be outdoors and active during the fall of the year is something we should promote in schools all across the province. Schools can bring their curriculum into the open air where children can learn about the science of the ecosystem (for example, measuring soil acidity), the mathematics of quantifying the harvest (determining how many kilograms of turnips are harvested per hectare), the history and culture of growing food in Newfoundland and Labrador (what food was grown, how it was preserved, the importance of the cellar).

Students would also benefit from the physical activity involving working the soil or digging potatoes and the health benefits of eating freshly cut turnip tops.

There are a number of schools in the province that are enriching the school environment by providing students with an opportunity to get their hands dirty.

St. Francis in Harbour Grace offers students access to a high-tech greenhouse which has provided students a chance to grow and process and then sell their own food.

In Happy Valley Goose Bay, a volunteer-run initiative sees elementary school students planting seeds in April to be transplanted to a children’s garden in the summer. In the summer, participants from the town’s summer recreational program tend to the children’s garden.

In Harbour Breton, a community has come together to create Averee’s Garden, to keep alive the  memory of Averee Pierce, a Grade 2 student at St. Joseph’s School in Harbour Breton who died in March 2012. This garden is a partnership between a foundation started by Averee’s parents, the Town of Harbour Breton, the Harbour Breton Community Youth Network, St. Joseph’s School and the Central Regional Wellness Coalition.

The Newfoundland and Lab-rador Federation of Agriculture also offers a number of schools in the province the chance to grow food inside their classroom with a program called “Little Green Thumbs.” Individual classrooms are given a grow light and growing container and the class can work together to care for their garden, as well as learn about nutrition and environmental stewardship.

This is just a brief listing of some of the school gardening programs that have sprung up across the province. Let’s ask our policy makers how we can pave the way for more of this type of educational innovation.

Why? Because harvest time is an important piece of a child’s education. It teaches the valuable lesson of working as part of a community and knowing how to supply food for yourself. We have so much to learn from our past as we create a livable future for our children. We are told many things in the past were done out of necessity. I believe there is an argument to be made today that students need to be exposed to gardening and the outdoors at school. Not every important lesson can be learned from a book.

Emily Doyle lives in St. John’s.

Organizations: Grade 2, School in Harbour Breton, Harbour Breton Community Youth Network Central Regional Wellness Coalition Newfoundland and Lab Federation of Agriculture

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Joseph, Happy Valley Goose Bay

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