“Garden in a Bag” – Teaching basic gardening skills to promote sustainable food production
Moncton High School is an inner city school located in Moncton New Brunswick that serves a very diverse population. Due to the zoning of the school we consist upper, middle and low income populations as well as many families that are new to Canada as a result of a recent influx of immigration in our area as well as refugees. We are also the high school for surrounding more rural based towns and villages resulting in both an urban as well as rural based population. As a result our needs are diverse when it comes to food security but our need is great as we run breakfast, lunch and “Take home” programs to ensure that our students are fed.
As the Nutrition 120 teacher I have taken this opportunity to expand on the basic curriculum that covers discussing food supply and food deserts into also including local food production and options for creating sustainable food options. 90% of our students have indicated that with the rising costs of food and gas prices they are concerned about the impact that will have on the global food supply.
In past years when I have discussed these topics with my students they have shown an interest in learning how to plant their own plants, gardens and container gardening. Unfortunately, due to the changes in teaching resulting from COVID over the past two years and the fact that our planting season is so short and does not overlap with the growing season in New Brunswick, I have struggled to meet this interest. This grant has allowed me to purchase grow lights and mini self watering greenhouses that I added to the Hydroponic tower our school already had. These supplies will allow me to continue to incorporate these essential life skills into my course for years to come.
I have called this project the “Garden in a Bag” project, 90 out of 120 students have taken part over the course of the project. Our goal was to teach valuable gardening skills through direct hands on experience to show students how easy it is to start vegetables and herbs from seed all the way through to transplanting into their own gardens or leaving them as container gardens if they live in smaller spaces. Each student will be going home at the end of the semester (in two more weeks) with self sustaining grow bags that include a mix of lettuce, kale and/ or spinach as well as a cherry tomato plant. Each student also selected another vegetable or herb (peas, cucumbers, beans, basil, cilantro, oregano, watermelon) and seeds were purchased based on their interest. We started through the germination stage to seedling and they are now taking them home to transplant.
Students were responsible for planting, researching the needs of their chosen plants, watering and transplanting their seedlings (and mature plants once taken home). We provided them with mini lessons in soil health, fertilizing, planting, the germination process and transplanting.
Reflection & Celebration
The following statistics were obtained this week through a poll completed by 80% of our 90 enrolled students.
Only 10% of our student indicated that prior to this project they had experience with gardening (even if it was just watching someone else) whereas now 100% stated that they would be comfortable to now start plants from seed on their own. 80% of our students were surprised at how easy it is to grow vegetables from seed and how little materials are needed (we made sure to grow plants in the three methods we had – under the purchased grow lights, in the hydroponic tower and simply on our sunny window sill). 100% indicated that they enjoyed and developed a sense of satisfaction from watching their plants grow and caring for them daily (students would come in at all times of the day to check on their plants and always rushed right over to water them before class would start!). You will find a reflection data chart included in my photos that indicate what they liked best about the project.
I am beyond pleased with how easy and practical this project was – I wanted my students to have a stress-free experience so that they could see how easy it would be to grow their own food in the future. 90% of the students indicated that they plan to continue to transplant and care for their plants at home and a shocking 100% indicated that they were likely or very likely to use the skills that they have obtained through this project to plant their own vegetables and gardens in the future.
I would call that a success for the future of sustainable food production!