Carson’s Outdoor School Garden & Classroom

Carson Elementary School Mental Health & Well-being SD028 School Level Elementary Northern Health Authority Public

Carson Elementary is located in Johnston Subdivision in the city limits of the city of Quesnel. Enrollment is approximately 170 students from Kindergarten to grade 7.

Carson students participate in the sense of community by being involved in athletic teams, recycling, composting, school jobs, school spirit days and events such as the Cardboard Challenge and Identity Day. At Carson, we are proud of our caring, thoughtful learning community.

As we continue to work with the redesigned Ministry of Education curriculum, district initiatives, and the changing needs of our students, we are turning our attention to develop student critical thinking skills, independence, reflection, and self-regulation strategies.

Last year we approached the idea of creating an outdoor classroom and school garden to correspond with the redesigned BC Curriculum and because research shows the benefits of outdoor play. We purchased and installed four raised garden beds. The activities we started were of great interest to the students: planting micro-greens, squash, pumpkins, strawberries, peas, but our growing season is so short and we were impacted by wildfires. We thought that if we had indoor growing lights, students could constantly grow plants and observe the growing cycle right in their classroom.

This year our students were educated on the history and Aboriginal uses of plants in our region, teachers had ongoing outdoor classroom activities, and we used the garden beds for planting fruit, flowers, perennials and vegetables. We purchased a light garden system with plant trays with the HSN grant, and will use this system for upcoming garden projects and plant studies.

We focused on the health benefits of gardening and being outdoors, including physical and mental wellness. Students report feeling happy and calm when being outdoors working in the garden.

School connectedness expanded to include our parents and guardians. Families were a very important part of this project, and they helped with a School Yard Spruce Up on a Friday afternoon and a Garden Workbee on a Sunday. A parent, who is a Master Gardener, was instrumental in writing this grant and designing the outdoor classroom.

Students were involved in their classes, worked with a parent who led our garden club, and participated in our School Yard Spruce Up and Garden Workbee. They watered the plants, weeded the flower beds, and learned how to prune shrubs. They love the pathways through the garden and enjoy being involved in the space. School connectedness was developed and relationships fostered.

This project is strongly connected to the curricular competencies, provides the opportunity to be outside on a regular basis, is enjoyable, relevant and engaging for students.