About Our Project

vegetable illustration
  • St. Bernadette students tending to their gardens

Healthy Communities, Healthy Kids

Over the past year, Seeds of Diversity and the Waterloo Region Community Garden Network partnered to create the School Food Garden project throughout Waterloo Region. Thanks to the Healthy Kids Community Challenge (Region of Waterloo) grant, we were able to install 7 new school food gardens in elementary schools through the help of volunteers and students. This project was far-reaching within the education community. Each of the school garden builds will provide approximately 2720 students the opportunity to participate in the school garden process to grow fruits and veggies. This may include projects that could include designing, growing, harvesting, maintaining, and artistically contributing to the garden at their school. We have the potential to teach these valuable life skills to the same number of students each year the garden is utilized. This grows exponentially, as more students, educators, and members of the community become involved. Many community members helped and volunteered their time and energy to this project. Approximately 67 volunteers participated, which included supporting school staff, Parent Teacher Association members, parents, students, and members of the community.

Each build was possible through volunteer construction, student participation, and local business involvement. Our garden frames were constructed by volunteer teachers, community members, and high-school students. We used supplies from local businesses, collaborated with other non-profit organization such as Grand River Food Forestry to build a pollinator/edible food fedge on the perimeter of one of our raised food gardens. This creates learning opportunities for our volunteers and community members who would like to participate in the future.

Each time a student has the opportunity to play and work in a garden, they learn new skills through discovery-based learning. A garden opens doors for curiosity, exploration, and community-building. Outdoor time has been proven to improve academic performance, increase physical activity, and create an increased sense of community (according to the Region of Waterloo School Scan Report). When an educator has the opportunity to spend time in an outdoor classroom, we allow for a more creative way to educate and provide the real-world experience of viewing nature. This process of how we grow food, and where food comes from is essential for young minds.

When students are allowed the opportunity to grow their own food, they gain appreciation for health, nutrition, and increase intake of healthy fruits and vegetables. With the intention of creating community hubs, these schools would like to invite community members in as participants in the process; for example, maintaining the garden over the summer months, starting garden clubs, or providing food for school food programs. We can showcase these benefits by creating a community that is rooted in collaboration, participation, and education. This is truly a community project, where many hands (large or small) make light work.

References:
https://www.regionofwaterloo.ca/en/living-here/resources/Documents/SchoolGardens_WR_Scan.pdf