What started as a small garden bed quickly turned into the beginnings of a full-blown school garden as Penfield Elementary becomes the latest SD72 school to embrace this outside teaching tool.
Over the winter months, with the generous support of Greenways Land Trust, Home Depot, Penfield PAC and the Stobart family, the school created six large garden beds for their students to take their learning outdoors.
Penfield has had a school-wide ethnobotany program for the last two years with the guidance of an Indigenous support teacher and have been investigating plants and learning about their traditional uses with an Indigenous language component.
The first plants in the new garden beds are local species to further support this learning. Students worked to remove invasive species in the forests close to the school and are now using the native plants to rejuvenate and reestablish the local ecosystem.
Penfield established an outdoor learning committee with the initiative of three passionate educators, Chelsea Badger, Jennifer Sheiles and Juliet Stewart, to create opportunities for collaboration on outdoor learning, like this school garden, and to compile resources and programs for other teachers.
“This project has brought us together in a year when we are physically distanced,” says Chelsea Badger the school’s outdoor learning leader.
The grade 4/5 classes helped with staining and shoveling soil, grade 2/3 classes helped shoveling soil, removing invasive species, and planting the local plants, and the kindergarten/grade 1 classes visit the beds often, help with invasive species removal and planting in the neighbouring forest area.
But beyond bringing the students and staff together, the project has also been a way to safely bring families to the school and connect with them during the pandemic. Many families donated their time to build, stain, shovel and support the school with this initiative.
The Penfield outdoor education committee’s next goal is to fence the garden so that they can start growing edibles and plants and flowers that will attract bees and butterflies.
Jennifer Patrick, Manager of Communications
Phone: (250) 830.2333