Parents, teachers and students of Ocean Grove Elementary School have begun building the largest school garden in Campbell River. Photo by Alistair Taylor/Campbell River Mirror

VIDEO: Campbell River elementary school garden to teach kids where food comes from

Grow big or grow home, that’s what Ocean Grove Elementary School is saying these days.

That’s because work has begun on building the biggest school garden in the Campbell River School District.

“It’s been a project we’ve been working on for the past five or six months,” said Sole MacDougall. “And it’s been a passion for all of us on the garden committee.”

The ground was broken last week on a project to build a 22 ft by 50 ft garden in an area northwest of the school building in approved by the school district. It will be secured with a 5-6 ft tall chainlink fence and a locking gate and will consist of multiple soil beds that are wheelchair accessible and accompanied by driftwood benches, a shed and work tables.

School gardens provide an opportunity for children to learn and connect with nature. Gardening and being outdoors has shown to promote positive minds and healthy bodies by learning about healthy foods and being physically active. It allows children to learn valuable gardening and agricultural lessons, and skills that integrate school curriculum such as science, math, art and health. In addition, children learn social skills, teamwork skills, focus, patience and problem solving.

The plan is to get the students involved in the garden from the planting stage to the harvesting stage and further.

“We wanted to give the teachers and students a bit of an opportunity to have an outdoor space,” said Cherice Sweet, “so they can reconnect to nature, figure out where food comes from.”

Sweet and MacDougall are part of a committee that took charge of an idea MacDougall had back in September. In the ensuing five months, the committee has rallied the school community to launch the project and venture out into the community to solicit support, from both businesses and individuals.

There are many lessons to be learned from building and running your own garden.

“Especially at a time when (food) prices are increasing drastically,” MacDougal said. “It’s nice to know you can also grow your on food.”

The plan is to grow vegetables, such as lettuce, carrots, kale, beans and tomatoes as well as berries and herbs. The kids will be rolling up their sleeves and helping plant the seeds and pulling weeds.

“So the kids are going to be helping us with everything from the soil and doing the pathways and whatnot, just, even, the start of the garden,” MacDougall said. “Then they’re going to be planting all the seeds and the teachers are going to integrate all the curriculum that they’re going to learn and connect it to the garden.”

Many of the classes will start the seeds indoors in the classroom and then plant them in the garden boxes that will be built.

“And the teachers will create a schedule where they’ll bring their classrooms out and kids will help pick weeds but also enjoy the fruits of their labour as well,” Sweet said.

It’s hoped that the kids will get the gardening bug and replicate it at home. It’s also hoped the idea would spread to other schools.

“I think it’s a health-promoting and educational project that is essential for the future and for the future of our children as well,” MacDougall said.

And there’s no doubt what’s going to happen to the harvest.

“They’re going to eat it,” MacDougall and Sweet say, almost in unison.

“One of the teachers had suggested that as the kids pick things, it gets shared among the classrooms,” Sweet said. “So if one of the classrooms happen to be out there when, you know, the strawberries are ready, that class would then make little strawberry biscuits or something and disperse it throughout the school so everybody kind of gets a little bit of something.”

And donations are being sought for the project of anything to do with gardening: buckets and shovels, garden tools, soil “anything you have to offer.”

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