School garden takes root in Lantzville

NANAIMO – Students at Seaview Elementary School will get a chance to nurture their green thumbs next school year.

Students at Seaview Elementary School will get a chance to nurture their green thumbs next school year.

Thanks to grants secured through the Toyota Evergreen Learning Grounds program and the Whole Kids Foundation, parents, students and school staff members plan to begin construction of a vegetable garden on school grounds in September.

“The whole reason behind that is to teach kids about healthy eating and hopefully one day have a cooking program,” said Cherie Alyward, parent advisory council chairwoman. “It’s nice to have for the kids. They may not be able to experience gardening at home.”

The idea of having a garden on school grounds took root after Alyward’s oldest daughter went on a field trip to John Barsby Secondary School, which already has one, to participate in a cooking program.

The students loved being able to head out to the garden to pick some fresh herbs and vegetables to use in a soup they later dropped off at the local food bank.

Alyward said the kids had all sorts of technical questions about what could be grown in the area and at what times of the year and so with the support of Jeff Schultz, a teacher at the school, as well as the administration, she applied for the grants.

The project received $3,000 through the Toyota Evergreen Learning Grounds program, a joint venture between local Toyota dealerships, including Nanaimo Toyota Scion, and Toyota Canada to help schools create outdoor classrooms, and $2,000 through the Whole Kids Foundation’s School Garden Grants program.

Alyward said the plan is to build 10 raised boxes – one for every class in the school – as well as a learning bench, ornamental bed, herb garden and shed. The $5,000 should cover everything, including soil and tools, except for the shed.

“We’re hoping to get donations for the shed,” she said, adding the district has cleared and flattened an area on school property for the garden.

Alyward hopes that most teachers incorporate the garden into their lessons.

She said aside from the potential for using it in science, math and other lessons, the garden can help teach students about healthy eating, where food comes from and the benefits of growing your own food.

The hope is one day a cooking program could be added at the school that would use what is produced in the garden, Alyward added.

A group of parents have signed on to help maintain the garden.

This is the second major project the community has taken on at the school in the past year and a half.

Parents, supported by the whole community, fundraised for and installed a memorial playground on school grounds in honour of two brothers who died in an accidental fire on Nanoose First Nation land in January 2012.