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Community garden offers learning experience for all

Cedar Elementary converts former playground site into community garden
Cedar Elementary School Principal Michael Rennie shovels dirt into raised garden beds in front of the school on Sept. 20, 2019. The school transformed a gravel lot into a community garden. Photo by Marissa Tiel/Campbell River Mirror

Cedar Elementary School students will be learning more about where their food comes from. The school recently finished building its first community garden, featuring 17 raised beds and a whole lot of delicious produce.

“A garden provides so many different learning opportunities for the kids,” said teacher Stephanie Stromquist. “A lot of the time (they) don’t know where their food comes from and so this opens up that whole conversation.”

Stromquist, a Grade 2/3 teacher at Cedar, spearheaded the project. After the school’s playground moved from the front of the building, a gravel area remained. It was a bit of an eye-sore and Stromquist became especially motivated to make a project happen there after a community member asked one afternoon while walking his dog if it was a big litter box.

“We need to make this something else,” she thought. “It can’t just be this gravel pit that sits there.”

She surveyed staff to see if a community garden was an option.

Things started getting off the ground last spring, around the time that Ocean Grove Elementary School was building its own community garden, a 1,110 sq. foot behemoth.

Stromquist reached out to the community to see if anyone could help. Companies donated supplies and tools, a majority of the dirt and the fencing. Local groups awarded them grants.

On Sept. 20, during a work party, the raised beds were installed and filled with dirt.

There’s already a healthy selection of plants in the boxes.

“Right now we have peas and carrots and squash and dill; we have strawberries and blackberries and then we have some kale and chives, radishes, spinach, lettuce,” said Stromquist. “We have quite a variety in there right now.”

Many of the plants were started during the summer. A number of their sensory garden specimens were donated as starters and include lamb’s Ear, chives, mint chocolate, lemon balm and kale – anything that smells or feels interesting.

The garden is also a learning opportunity for Stromquist, who just started her own garden at home this year.

“Just being able to watch from the very beginning to the end… being able to plant the seeds with the kids and then monitoring them and watching them grow and making the kids understand things take time and it takes effort and things don’t just happen overnight,” she said. “If you do put in that effort and take the time then something great will come out of it.”

With the community garden being so new for the school, most of the harvest is happening classroom by classroom. Stromquist thinks that maybe in the future they might have school-wide meals or activities.

“There’s just endless learning opportunities with a garden,” she said. “It’s learning for everybody not just the students, but for the teachers and staff and everybody working together to make it all work.”

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

RELATED: At Ocean Grove, it took a community to raise a school garden


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Cedar Elementary Students transfer dirt into wheelbarrows for their new community garden on Sept. 20, 2019. Photo by Marissa Tiel/Campbell River Mirror