UPCOMING COMMUNITY EVENTS

Winter Work-Party

Sunday, December 15th from 1-3pm

Join families & community volunteers to care for the gardens. We'll have warm drinks and snacks for all while we weed and fix things. One big project will be to take down the leaning retaining wall and erect a temporary deer fence. We'll also water and turn the compost piles, spread woodchips on trails, add strawbales to the terraced hillside and more. Hope to see you there! 

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HISTORY
Many efforts over time.
DESIGN
Infrastructure & layout.
LEARNING
Student Experiences & Activities
PARTNERS
Volunteers & Community.
DONORS
Funders & Supporters.
INSIGHTS
Lessons Learned.
FUTURE
What's Next?
EVENTS
Annual & Upcoming.
CONTACTS
Garden Champions.
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Salt Spring Elementary School Gardens 

 

HISTORY

In 1993, Martin Thorn and his class planted a small vegetable garden here over Earth Day. In 2010, a deer fence was constructed with volunteers around the future garden site (funded both by the school, the PAC and by donations), as part of a project to replace an asbestos sewer pipe in the embankment. School children were involved in the calculations of the perimeter and with soil building from cardboard and leaves. The area had become overgrown with blackberry and gorse, and a food forest was envisioned for the site by Jackie Harkema. Outside the fenced area, a NatureScape was planned (supported by the Habitat Acquisition Trust that would provide native plants along with expertise and resources for their planting).

The combined installation would stabilize the bank, enhance its appearance, be a showcase for what’s possible in this type of location around low maintenance food production and provide an outdoor natural environment for teaching opportunities and community involvement. Donations from SS Air helped to buy trees while Seven Ravens students helped design permaculture plantings. Creating an accessible area that the teachers felt they could easily make use of was the main stumbling block and, unfortunately, the school garden activities stalled from 2013 to 2016. 

 

In Autumn 2016, a host of teachers, students, volunteers and community partners re-invigorated the school gardens at SSE.

DESIGN

In Autumn 2016, teachers Katharine Byers and Gail Bryn-Jones were awarded a grant from the SSI Foundation to construct a deer-fenced garden in front of the school, adjacent to the new Outdoor Classroom. This includes a picnic table and u-shaped raised beds with a central bed down the middle. As part of this project, Matt Nowell at Gulf Islands Irrigation added a 400-gallon rain barrel and gutters to the Outdoor Classroom. 

On the deer-fenced slope behind the school, a school parent, Robin Jenkinson drew a new design for the overgrown hillside in Fall 2016 and shared it with the PAC and SSE teachers and staff. After incorporating feedback, the new SSE Garden Committee organized monthly work-parties, and supported by many local donors, they cleared the re-grown weeds, constructed an additional entrance, gates, pathways, and a gathering area, plus terraced garden beds. Additionally, the group of community, teachers and staff, and school family volunteers constructed an ELF sandbox, plexiglass easels (made from old golf cart windshields), a blackboard and cob benches. Students helped move soil and wood-chip mulch into beds and onto pathways, and they planted the garden and buried seedy time-capsules. A three-bin composter was constructed in Fall 2017 to handle paper towel and food waste (each class was throwing away nearly a garbage bag of paper towels each week!). 

In Winter 2017-18, Linda McDaniels' 2-3rd grade class designed additional features for the garden and made a video. These included a greenhouse, a fish pond, a movie theatre, a vine-covered shade arbor over the sandbox, resting tipis, a composting toilet, a fairy garden, a vegetable climbing sculpture, and a haybale seating area.

 

In Spring 2018, Michael Nickels brought his Seven Ravens Permaculture class to interview the SSE Garden Committee and Linda's class and develop an updated vision for the Hillside Garden, one that includes permaculture principles and a food forest.

In 2018-19, a greenhouse was added along with additional rammed-earth retaining walls, haybale terraced beds, a wooden writing surface, new latches on the fences, and more. 

LEARNING

The plan is to enhance the student experience, whereby young people are given even more opportunities to take action on issues of growing, preparing and eating healthy food, and moving learning outdoors. For example, several classes participate in weekly garden activities with their teachers and parent/community volunteers, that often includes picking and eating garden produce.

Hands-on learning has included all sorts of plantings, drawing and writing about the garden, collecting and saving seeds and plant diversity, composting and mulching, herbs and vegetable identification, mapping, and more. Many classes also use the areas for outdoor reading, writing, play-acting, having snack, and playing. Many children have found worms, all sorts of insects (bees and butterflies), and several snakes. One class is designed garden ABC's that were laser-engraved into a wooden gate cover. 

All-school harvest lunches (autumn & spring), an all-school bulb-planting in the fall, and an all-school seeding day make it feel like a collective effort. All classes use the garden spaces.

PARTNERS

These school garden initiatives are truly a community effort! So many community volunteers have helped out at the monthly garden work-parties, along with donations from a multitude of local community businesses, farms, and philanthropic organizations. By engaging students, families, and community volunteers in designing and building garden infrastructure at SSE, we’re not only creating space to grow food and for students to learn about ecology and agriculture, but we’re also growing community connections.

 

The SSE Garden Group (associated with the PAC) coordinates the support for the gardens and is comprised of about ten parents, six teachers, and Principal Shelly Johnson.

DONORS

The Hillside Garden has received funding from generous individual donors via check, cash, and online Indiegogo fundraiser, as well as Island Savings, SSI Garden Club, and SSI Firefighters’ Association. In-kind donations have been received from TerraFirma/Sirewall, the Mud Girls, Dan Logan Carpentry, Country Grocer, Windsor Plywood, Barb’s Buns, Gulf Coast Materials, Charlie’s Excavating, Natureworks, Jana’s Bake Shop, Dave’s Blasting, Akerman’s Farm, The Glass Foundry, Treasures of the Heart, Salt Spring Seeds and others, plus the talented parents and community members giving so much of their time and efforts. (and many more in 2017-18!). 

 

The Nature Program in the lower garden has received funding from SSI Foundation and the Farmer’s Alliance for a new fence and garden beds, plus a rain cistern from Gulf Islands Irrigation. Bullock Lake Farm has donated starts, Salt Spring Seeds has donated seeds, and Mouat’s Hardware has donated tools to be used at all gardens.

INSIGHTS

Not all teachers have the time, resources, knowledge or experience to fully engage their students in the garden. We have organised Garden-Based Learning workshops, been awarded funding for stipends for offering class activities, and have found The School Garden Curriculum to be an essential source if materials for garden activities. To help all schools, a school garden coordinator for the school district should be considered.  

EVENTS

The SSE Garden Committee hosts monthly work-party events, with snacks and materials donated by the PAC,  local businesses, individual donations, and grants. After learning about Fulford School's Fall Harvest Celebration, SSE celebrates gardens in Autumn & Spring with all-school Harvest Lunches, grown and prepared by students, to which all contributors are invited. 

FUTURE

In 2018, a greenhouse was built so that students can grow, learn in the garden, and harvest healthy food year-round. Additional plans include a shade arbor over the central meeting area, another removable set of stairs to more easily access the front garden gate, better tool storage, mosaic stepping stones, compost signage, a picnic table, and more. Eventually, the wooden retaining wall attached to the aging deer fence will need to be replaced. 

CONTACTS

Principal Shelly Johnson can be reached at SSE: (250) 537-9928 and sjohnson@sd64.org

Teachers Gail Bryn-Jones (gbrynjones@sd64.org) and Katharine Byers (kbyers@sd64.org) are the SSE garden gurus. 

SSE PAC Garden Committee lead is parent Robin Jenkinson (riverjenkinson@gmail.com).

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Website contact: Robin riverjenkinson<@>gmail.com