Self-Sustaining Garden


As a rural school, we are incredibly well suited for outdoor learning with our large yard complete with a garden, gazebo, open areas, a field surrounded by forest, and enhanced by nearby trails and river settings that are currently being studied by archeologists. At Onslow Elementary School, we aim to incorporate outdoor learning and use our natural spaces in order to encourage our students’ connection to and respect of the land. In the school year of 2021-22, we built a school garden with four garden boxes that our students may grow vegetables in that they can then eat. Nearby, we also have a natural composter and food-growing trees. Our school is located in a low socio-economic community where many students are not provided with adequate nutrition; many families are low-income and need to travel over 50km to reach a grocery store. The main goal in this garden project was to enable our students to grow and harvest their own healthy food and see the potential and benefit in self-grown food and the impact it has on sustainability for our planet. We believe that the direct and indirect learning in this ongoing project will encourage mindfulness around the environment and give our students the knowledge and experience they will need to help the current issues of climate change. The environmental impact of growing our own food reduces waste and emissions that would be incurred by food transportation.

Our vison for this action project extends the life of our current garden, with the addition of native apple trees and, more importantly, we would love to see our garden area be sustainable with regard to energy and water. We would like to do this by eliminating the use of a hose and sprinkler system. Currently, depending on rainfall, we need to take out and set up the hose and sprinkler system almost daily from May to October. It takes about 15 minutes of water usage to water our two maple trees and another 15 minutes to water our garden boxes. This means that we are pupming water for about 30 minutes five times per week, which is 2.5 hours of water usage, averaging around 690 gallons of water being used each week. Over 24 weeks this accumulates over 16 500 gallons of water usage. Through the use of a rain barrel system, we would save almost all of this water usage. We would also save staff time setting up the hose each time and allow our students to take over this responsibility themselves; collecting water from the barrel to water our garden, allowing natural resources to sustain our food growth without the use of electricity or unneccessary water.


To date, we have planted 2 maple trees, 3 small cherry trees, and installed 4 garden boxes where students plant, grow, and harvest vegetables, and have a composter.

To extend this project, we aim to:
– plant apple trees (food growth on site reduces emissions, teaches sustainability, and provides natural shade and air filtration)
– install a rain barrel system in order to allow our trees and garden to be more environmentally-friendly (by using rainwater to irrigate, we will save water)
– students will learn to garden from planting to harvest, including lessons on the importance of food growth and sustainability
– provide nutritious fruit and vegetables for our students

Reflection & Celebration

Students will experience sustainable food growth that they will learn to replicate from planting to harvest. These are life skills to be celebrated. Our students will be encouraged to work together to grow their own food and share their knowledge with the outside community. A garden celebration at harvest is one of the ways our school creates a sense of pride and belonging in our students and their connection to the Earth. As an ongoing project, students will learn to take responsibility for various garden roles and edible plants each year. Staff will reflect on the project and continue to extend our outdoor learning initiative.

2. Zero Hunger
3. Good Health and Well-Being
6. Clean Water and Sanitation
11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
13. Climate Action
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