Many efforts over time.
Infrastructure & layout.
Student Experiences & Activities
Volunteers & Community.
Funders & Supporters.
Lessons Learned.
What's Next?
Annual & Upcoming.
Garden Champions.
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Pender Islands School Gardens 


Agriculture has long been a mainstay for Pender Island. Pender's school garden began when a class was asked on the first day of school to write or draw what they loved and what they wanted to learn about that year. Cries of "I love pizza!" and "Me, too!" led to a pizza garden on a borrowed plot at a nearby farm, where the students grew pizza toppings and Canadian organic red fife wheat for the crust. 

The garden at Pender Islands School was built in 2009 with several donations of time, money and materials from Spring Leaves students and parents and the community. 


There were two phases in building an approximately 100’ by 20’ fenced garden with ten beds, a Berry Walk, a row of flowers and two espaliered cherry trees, that now includes a greenhouse (6x8 plexiglass) and a Garden Classroom (with a 10x10 cob storage shed, a pizza oven, a living roof, a solar demonstration project, and a rainwater collection system). Located away from the garden is a triple bin compost system.


Each class, including the preschool, has a plot to tend. Parent Arthur Kikuchi has been our garden guru from the beginning; over the years, he has helped the students with prepping, planting and tending the garden, summer watering, and harvesting, as well as gardening workshops, class time in the garden, and a weekly lunchtime Garden Club in the spring.  

School principal Dan Sparanese believes the benefits of the garden include health benefits, seeing how food is produced, and providing insights about global sustainability for the children. Dan is passionate about helping these kids “get out of the mess we’re in.” “The reality is that this type of science should be what kids are learning — it’s a lost art.” Pender School consists of approximately 140 Kindergarten to grade eight students.


Arthur Kikuchi is our dedicated gardening guru/advisor. Luckily, he has five children in the school system, so we'll benefit from his expertise and commitment for a long time to come. 


Pender School's past and present administrators have never said no to a good school garden idea. School District 64 administrators have always said yes. 


Every spring, the Pender Island Farmers Institute mentors our students with seeds and seedlings, some of which find their way into the school garden or the Fall Fair.


Students, teachers, parents and others keep the garden growing.


The school garden and garden classroom would not be possible without several gifts from the community: 


The Kikuchi family, who have given continually of their time, energy, money and seeds to run the school's Garden Club and to help tend our school garden

Colin Hamilton, for making the dream of a Garden Classroom come true

Tracy Calvert, for her help with the alternative building techniques we used

Pat Thorne and Bryce Woollcombe (for initial moral support and summer watering)

Glenn Grimmer (for the initial donation of soil)

School District 64 (for encouragement and contingency funding for the project, allowing us to move ahead with confidence)

Dez Kirk (for very generous funding through Green Angels on Pender Island)

Grandparents and community members (for donations of the original wood for the garden beds, seeds, and saplings)

Pender Islands Eco Homes Network for moral support and initial contributions to the design

Pender Island Garden Club (for funds and garden inputs)

Pender Island Community Services Society (for their help in our purchase of garden equipment)

Gulf Islands Centre for Ecological Learning (for supporting our summer Garden Daycamps)

Pender Island Community Farmland Acquisition Project (for funding improvements to our fence, for buying the school a skookum dehydrator, and for allowing classes to use the community apple press)

Our school's Parent Advisory Council (PAC) (for funding for the fence and our garden signs)

Pender Community Transition (for planting and tending the hazelnut trees in our schoolyard)

Dave Howe, our CRD director, and the CRD (for funding our greenhouse)

Stanley King and Susan Chung, The Co-Design group (for helping students envision and design the Garden Classroom)

For many years, the Spring Leaves families made and sold holiday crackers to raise money for the school garden.

So many community members who have given of their time, money, energy and expertise 


Several grants helped to pay for the infrastructure:

World Wildlife Fund Canada's Green CommUnity School Grants Program (for initial funding, including for the solar panel)

Learning for a Sustainable Future's Project FLOW Action Project Funding (for the living roof and our irrigation system)

BC Green Games (for the $1000 prize for our Paper Towel Composting project)

Learning for a Sustainable Future's Ecoleague (for funding for our compost system)


Teachers would like more workshops or visiting garden programs in their classrooms. For example, the composting workshop from Victoria was awesome. They would like programs to especially target grades 4 and above and be more instructional.


Over the years, summer tending and watering has been looked after by our garden advisor, by volunteers from staff, by some families, and by participants in summer daycamps run at the school. 


Teachers buy in to using the school garden as a site of learning according to their gardening comfort and knowledge level. Professional development opportunities enhance comfort and confidence.


Never erect a greenhouse anywhere near a sports field or rink!


To keep our carbon footprint low, we don't bring inputs or amendments from off island. We top up our garden beds every year or two using "forest soil." 


To be successful and safe (i.e., to avoid rodents), on-site composting programs (especially those that use lunch food scraps) must be carefully supervised by a knowledgeable adult.


Decide ahead of time whether you want visitors (locals and tourists) to have access to your garden and its produce during the summer. It's nice to be welcoming, but it's frustrating to have two-legged marauders walk away with the students' harvest.


Over July and August (especially if it's a particularly hot and dry summer), leave water out in the schoolyard for the deer ... somewhere away from the garden. We once arrived on the first day of school to a broken fence and everything gone but the turnips and the sunflowers. (Let Julie know if you want a delicious recipe for turnip soup that even kindergarteners will eat!)


Over the years, the school garden has been the site of GICEL summer garden daycamps, tours for parents and community groups hosted by students, and professional development workshops for teachers.

Students have participated through class lessons and mini-workshops and through the lunchtime Garden Club (with visiting baby chicks as a favourite component).


The harvest from the garden has contributed to whole school harvest feasts, soup luncheons to raise money for famine relief in Africa, pizza made from scratch (literally, scratching the seed into the ground!), lunches made and served by students for visiting dignitaries, and an Earth Day outdoor lunch of pizza baked in the cob oven.


Pender School supports the idea of a Gulf Islands School Garden Network. "Concepts around food science and agriculture are gold," says the principal.


Monthly garden activities for classes. 


Updating the wooden beds


Put finishing touches on the Garden Classroom. 


Fix the greenhouse. 


Clean up the insect hotel.


Principal Dan Sparanese can be reached at Pender Islands School: (250) 629-3711 and dsparanese@sd64.org 


Julie Johnston got the garden started and, though retired, continues to be involved. Julie is available to do school gardening professional development workshops: greenhearted@shaw.ca. See her school garden webpage here: http://www.greenhearted.org/school-gardens.html

Arthur Kikuchi of Kenta Farm is a parent who's been leading garden activities at Pender for many years. 

Pender School Board Trustee, Greg Lucas is also a big fan and can be reached at glucas@sd64.org or (250) 539-4815

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School Garden Tour

Tuesday, May 22nd, from 9 to 11am

Explore the gardens with Julie Johnston and learn about what Pender Islands Schools has been up to.

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Website contact: Robin riverjenkinson<@>gmail.com