Saturday, 30 June 2012

InsideToronto Article: Students learn ABCs of gardening - literally


The full article can be read from the link above

Students at Clinton Street Public School will get an education on a wide variety of plant life - from aster to zebragrass - with the official opening of the school's ABC Learning Garden.

The garden consists of 26 plants, one for each letter of the alphabet, and will give youngsters a chance to reconnect with nature and learn about flora.

The plants were selected by students from Grades 4 to 6, who researched a variety of native plant species and chose the ones they wanted to see in the garden.

With help from Ryerson University nursing students, students from OISE and community garden volunteer Marjorie Shu, they have spent this year planting and tending to the garden, marking its official opening with the planting of the garlic bulbs - the last of the 26 plants to take root - on Tuesday, May 22.

Clinton Street vice-principal Danielle Hyles-Rainford said the garden was made possible through a $500 Evergreen Foundation grant, donations from the parent council through Clinton's School Council Wish List Fund and help from others in the community.

"It's part of Clinton being an eco school and part of the vibrant community initiative," she said. "What we want is an enrichment in kids' knowledge of how to garden and we have one class that's keen on vermiculture and how worms help as a natural composter."

While the school's Grade 4 gifted class helped lead the planting, Clinton Street student Sabbrina Husn Ortiz said the planting of the garden was a total school effort. "All the classes pitched in to clean outside of the garden and it was hard work," she said.

The school's enthusiasm for the garden has not waned over the course of the school year. Students remain excited about maintenance and upkeep, due in part to the fact they were given a chance to take ownership of the site from the very beginning. The school has even appointed eco-monitors, volunteers who will monitor the garden and plant new plants when necessary.

"They got to vote on (the plants) after learning about a bunch of different ones, so they know more about plants than what's in the garden," said OISE student Jennifer Thomas, who offered support throughout the process. "They're excited to see the plants they picked."

Shu said the garden will help the students overcome 'nature deficit disorder' by getting them to connect with the outdoors instead of spending all their time in front of computer screens. "We want to teach them there's a living energy in nature and they need to honour it, work with it and connect with it," she said.

The garden, located in the front of the school, promises to serve as a valuable teaching tool for years to come.
"The kids have been working on this since the start of the year and they're still really enjoying it," Hyles-Rainford said.
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