Growing Together: Ucluelet Elementary School Garden
There is only one way to describe our first year in the garden, ‘Growing Like a Weed!’ Through a collaborative approach our school garden grew tremendously. Starting with a 320 square foot greenhouse, in less than a year it grew to a 7200 foot garden enclosure. Our school garden team is extremely proud of the support from our local community including: students, parents, PAC, community volunteers, Nuu-chah-nulth Class, Secondary School Basketball team, Community Youth Group, Businesses, Non-Profit Organizations, School District. Our awesome community dug in and supported our garden through hands on shovelling, bringing in expertise knowledge, building benches, donating money, donating soil, donating lumber, and donating seeds.
The challenges we faced were both miniscule and ocean sized. From aphids and slugs eating some of our crops, to living in a remote community on the edge of the continent, we kept growing towards the sun. Our remote location, on the western edge of Vancouver Island, proved both difficult and costly to source quality gardening supplies. Coordination of the school community was another challenge. We now have a UES Garden bulletin board in the main office of the school, which provides a timetable to co-ordinate classes, visitors and the recess Garden Club.
Our school now has extra capacity to provide hands on learning for students as well as the Secondary School and the Community. Teachers now bring their classes to the garden for math, science, and literacy. Our school garden has two outdoor classrooms which allows teachers to bring their students outside. We offer a bi-weekly garden club, which is full of volunteers from Kindergarten to grade 7. Through our timetable sign-up sheet, we offer the use of the area to the Secondary School. The Nuu-chah-nulth studies class has had the opportunity to bring in local elders and cook salmon on the fire. The garden has also provided opportunity for special events such as school wide Aboriginal Day, D.A.R.E. Program, Professional Development Days, Community Garden Tours, and Community Educational Workshops.
Our garden offers opportunity for children of all ages, from StrongStart to Secondary School students to be involved in gardening. Each and every elementary student has had the opportunity to contribute to the garden. The garden includes many extra learning opportunities such as Mason Bees, Bug Hotel, Worm Composting, Composting, and Rain Water Catchment. It has enriched the lives of many students, providing real-life learning opportunities. Both the elementary school garden club and the secondary school basketball team have volunteered their time to do the dirty work; providing leadership and community service.
Without contributions and partnerships, our garden would not have flourished. We partner with the Parent Action Committee, Community Food Bank, as well as our local non-profit organization Clayoquot Biosphere Trust.
The future is bright with many crops setting their roots. From a small greenhouse to indoor and outdoor growing, we have continuously expanded our growing area. Parents and Teachers worked together to construct a raised garden bed for each class. The basketball team has dug up grass to make room for vegetable beds. The Kindergarten Class has helped plant our fruit orchard and the Sustainability Class has worked hard to oversee the entire garden.
For more information about our initiatives and projects, please visit our Facebook page.