How does their garden grow? Looking around at the tall stalks of sunflowers and corn…one could say very well. It was the time for the annual Thanksgiving harvest at the John Allison School community garden last Friday afternoon.
The Grade 4 class from Vermilion Forks School, who had planted in the spring as Grade 3s, was invited back to partake in the harvest and to enjoy the festivities. The oldest class came to intermingle with the students of John Allison School and see just what their green thumbs and tender little hands had managed to encourage forth from the earth. It was a day of dirt, veggies and fun.
Kindergarten teacher Shirley Low was the mastermind behind the garden. Three years earlier, the garden started to appear from a plot of land at the west side of the school. A fence went up, plots were build, dirt and manure were shoveled…tons of both, a sprinkler system was installed, a garden shed was constructed, then, a gazebo and a concrete pads…benches were next and a fountain. Like one seed that is planted in the soil and tended…that seed grows into a flower or a vegetable that blooms and multiplies with more seeds. All it takes is one in the very beginning.
As visitors watched the students proudly pointing out their plots to their friends, it became obvious that the garden was much more than a garden. Everything had grown wings. The garden is nature at its finest. Plants are growing. Food is forming silently under the soil or bursting along vines, the air smells better here…and the smiles. They are the most infectious. They are growing faster than any plant.
The Backdoor Blues band came free of charge to serenade the greenery and those who darted amongst it. Songs about gardens, yellow submarines and kids soon had students dancing and singing along. Carrots were being crunched, beets uncovered, peas popped and food was everywhere at its best form. Fresh and crisp waiting for a curious bite.
On top of all the fresh treats, Low had concocted a huge brew of butternut squash soup with her students that included vegetables right from the garden and into the pot. There is something to be said about eating what they made. The kids were all digging into their soup. They were slurping and smacking and asking for seconds.
“What a treat it is to have this addition to the John Allison School,” stated principal Barry Clarke. “To have the sunflowers greeting everyone at the start of the day…this garden is a wonderful opportunity to bring youth and community members together to share and literally grow with each other. In the last year alone, the following items have been harvested; borscht, coleslaw, beet salad, salads, seasoning, seeds for selling, zucchini, muffins and more.”
“The garden creates a wonderful sense of community,” stated teacher Marjorie Brewer. “It connects the Vermilion Forks students to our students and gives all of them a greater understanding of where food comes from. I use the garden as part of my curriculum. We discuss the cycle of life, but there is a also an important social element intertwined with the academic.”
“What this garden does is first of all promote healthy eating,” added teacher Robin Thomas. “It’s really important for that. It also connects to our science curriculum and talk about the differences between living and non-living things.”
Teacher Lorna Gregson has the best plot in the garden, (some refer to it as mutant). Her class grew a squash that is 91 cm around, 49 cm long and weighs in at 10 kilograms. “There is a lot of excitement in the garden as things are growing,” stated Gregson. “There is a lot of learning about how things grow and different seeds. The science and excitement together give us a great platform for positive learning.”
“Thank-you to the gardening angels, garden committee and the Backdoor Blues,” continued Clarke, “and the classes and teachers that each take a bed, plant it, tend it, and harvest it over the course of the year, to the many parent helpers and to Ms. Campana and her class for coming back to visit the garden that they planted in the spring and finally to the driving force behind this huge project, Mrs. Shirley Low.”
Low is, as always, modest about her endless energy to teach through the garden. “We had a marvelous time growing our food,” said Low. “Parents came out to help and I am thankful to everyone who has had a hand in helping us. We couldn’t have achieved what we have without all the many hands especially our garden angels. We had a wonderful season and this garden is something we are all thankful for.”