Grade 2 teacher Heather Link, left, and Grade 3 teacher Linda Bailey are leading Coquihalla Elementary School’s community garden project. One hundred and twenty students will now be able to work, play and learn in the community garden. Emelie Peacock photo

Fraser-Cascade schools get money to start greenhouse, garden and hydroponics

Agassiz, Boston Bar and Hope schools receive $6,000 from Farm to School

A greenhouse, a community garden and a hydroponic growing project will soon become a reality in Fraser-Cascade schools.

Three schools were successful in their grant applications from the Farm to School program, with a total of $6,000 awarded. The successful grants had to include three key elements: healthy and local food, hands-on learning and school and community connectedness.

Boston Bar Elementary-Secondary School is taking over a greenhouse on the school’s property previously leased to a community member, with it they will begin growing, harvesting and eating their own food.

All students from kindergarten to Grade 12 will take part in the project and various classes will incorporate the food project into their learning. For example, the shop class will build parts of the greenhouse.

Indigenous knowledge and teaching through the school’s First Nations support worker is a big part of the project.

“She is going to incorporate traditional knowledge of planting and harvesting foods and then we’re going to talk about the history and language,” principal Lisa Oike said.

While the $2,500 grant is a start, the school is actively looking for donations of items to allow the project to stay alive for as long as possible.

Coquihalla Elementary School received $2,000, allowing a project previously reaching only four classes to grow exponentially.

With the money all kindergarten to Grade 3 students, a full one-third of the school, will get the opportunity to plant, harvest and play at Hope’s community garden.

After a January decision by the SD78 board, the community garden will be located behind Coquihalla Elementary, a fitting location with the expansion of the program.

“I think they really enjoy the work part of it, which might surprise people,” Grade 3 teacher Linda Bailey said of the student experience in the garden.

“They really enjoy knowing that they’ve moved a pile of dirt from one place to another or that they’ve spread wood chips, reams and reams of wood chips.”

The community garden, Bailey added, allows students who do not enjoy sitting at their desks to be successful.

“When you grow your own things and you’ve got a hand in building something you feel pride,” said Grade 2 teacher Heather Link.

“‘Oh my goodness, look at the carrots we grew’ and they want to eat it with the dirt right on it.”

Tools suited for young children, including buckets and shovels, will be purchased to allow more students to learn and play at once.

The learning will also be enhanced, with facilitator Esther Brysch coming into the school to teach modules on food. Previously the learning happened only at the community garden.

Agassiz Elementary Secondary School is using the $1,500 they were awarded to build a hydroponic growing system. Students will grow lettuce for the school’s lunch program.

This project is the only one of the three initiated by a student.

As with the other three projects it will involve multiple subjects including science, foods, wood and technology.

Richard Han, provincial manager of Farm to School, said having three schools get funding in one district shows the interest in the district for food literacy.

These grants are a way to ensure equal access to food for all B.C. communities, Han said. After two years the schools can re-apply for money to keep the programs going.

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