Opportunities bloom in this Sukh school garden

It is a gem hidden in the backyard of Edward Millen Community School Field. The 2,500-square-foot[2,500 sq m]area may seem far-fetched, but as you approach it, the magic begins to show. For the first time, the school’s garden is hosting a group of students for the Winter Work Experience Program.

Squash, berries, apples and others can be found in the garden beds, but other vegetables, such as tomatoes and pumpkins, are growing in the greenhouse. A whiteboard outlining what to do – weeding around fruit trees, watering everything that is not irrigated, collecting plants – leaning back in the garden and the students work hard to put a smile on their faces.

In front of the school, the second part of this operation – the farm. Two more students greet members of the community posted there and sell their gifts and seeds.

There are plenty of year-round learning opportunities in this garden, and many gardens are or are being built in other Sukh school district high schools.

Matthew Kemshaw is a garden coordinator with the Edward Mile Community School Association. Photo courtesy of Shalu Mehta

Matthew Kimshaw is a garden coordinator with the Edward Min Community School Association, an organization that works closely with the school district and offers programs for students throughout the year. He works at EMCS, Belmont High School, Royal Bay Secondary School and West Shore Learning and Training Center. The garden of each school varies in size – the new Royal Bay School is currently under construction – but Kemshaw says they are all worth it.

“First of all, it’s a place of learning, but one of my main goals is to turn these into productive places,” said Khemshaw. So they are not only gardens, but also micro-pharmacies that produce food for schools.

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Opportunities to learn and grow

Sophia Abel-Hit graduated from Edward Mile Community School and got a summer gardening job. She introduced herself in the garden and learned about sustainability in class one during her last school year.

Abel-Heit has always been interested in gardening, so in the summer he asked her to volunteer in the school garden and instead applied for a job. She will study Earth and Ocean Science at Victoria University next year and says she enjoys being in the garden and working with the environment for the rest of her life.

Sophia Abel-Heit shows some EMCS garden gifts. Photo courtesy of Shalu Mehta

“By being here, I grew up wanting to know about the earth and how it works,” she says. I think this is very important to keep me going.

The garden serves as a learning opportunity for many classrooms, Kemshaw. There are open science and food classes, and art students are inspired by the garden, and French subjects want to practice talking in the garden.

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He says students have the opportunity to engage in food and learn where it comes from.

“It’s great for them to have realistic, hands-on interactions with seeds, soil and plants and to see what is needed to produce food,” says Chemshaw. “It provides an opportunity for students to connect with food and learn about food systems, problems and challenges in industrial food systems and possible solutions at the local level.

The gardens can also provide staff and students with hundreds of meals a week: from local, high-quality food.

Sam Tilson works with tomatoes at EMCS Garden. It is part of the Summer Experience Program with SD62. Photo courtesy of Shalu Mehta

Abel-Hitt’s presence in the garden taught her how much work she does to grow food and how different environmental influences can affect large-scale monocropping operations compared to other local farms.

Abel-Hit: “I think it’s important to know more and be involved in growing your own food, as appetite is becoming a problem and the more we learn to support ourselves,” says Abel-Hit.

Improving the mental health of students

Staying out of the house and out of the classroom for even 20 minutes a day seems to affect students’ mental health and attention, Kimshaw said.

“Many students are suffering from anxiety and are worried about their students’ mental health, and these gardens provide a good temple for them,” he said. “I hear teachers talk about how students get back to class after gardening and are more focused and active. They are happier and healthier people. ”

Jordin Cassidy (left), Sam Tilson, Sophia Abel-Hit and Matthew Kimshaw are working far away in the EMCS garden. Photo courtesy of Shalu Mehta

Abel-Hitt says she liked him in the garden, too. She says sitting at a desk and doing homework was a “good comparison.”

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, being in green spaces can significantly reduce anxiety and raise endorphins and dopamine levels, leading to feelings of happiness.
Citing a 2007 study by the Canadian Mental Health Association, it says: “In your own backyard, or in a community garden, easy care of plants and contact with nature can help calm your mind and move your body.” Community Garden in Toronto.

Career opportunities flourish

Participating in the summer program in the garden can also refer students to a variety of careers, Chemshaw said.

This is the first year of the program in SD62, and it was designed after a similar program called City in the Greater Victoria School District. There is a small group of students in the Sukh School District program this year, but Kemshaw says it was great for them to work together and grow as a team.

You will also gain practical skills outside of gardening. Students learn about food marketing by connecting with community members, teamwork, and others. And the community seems to be very supportive, Kemshaw.

Sarah Gilham and Bob Tilson wait for customers at the EMCS farm. Photo courtesy of Shalu Mehta

“There is a lot of positive involvement with what we are doing,” says Kamshaw. When we post things on social media, it gets a great response. I think students love to see something real and real.

Students in the program also take field trips to local farms, which helps them to begin to think that farming is not a career. Working in the garden could inspire more young farmers, he said, adding that chemistry is needed in the agricultural industry.

“If we are to overcome the challenges of climate change, we need smart young people to innovate in the food sector,” he said. “We need a new way to grow food and we need creative young people to get involved. We need young people who are happy to try to overcome them.

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