Experiential Learning in the Garden

Windsor Elementary School Healthy Eating SD041 School Level Elementary Vancouver Coastal Health Authority Public

Our goals at Windsor this year with this grant were threefold. One, we wanted to connect students to the garden and improve their eating habits by helping them understanding good nutrition and healthy food. A garden expert came in and was a guest speaker in a hands-on workshop for every one of our students.

Second, we wanted to help our students become open to trying new foods such as kale, swiss chard and radishes. We know children who plant the food are more likely to try it and that certainly has been our experience again this year.

Lastly, we wanted children to understand the importance of being outside, connecting to, and working in, nature. This area is one of only a couple of green spaces within walking distance in our Windsor neighborhood, and we wanted to encourage students to be outside, and educate them on the importance of fresh air and outdoor activities.

We live in a diverse socio-economic area and many of our children live in apartments or basement suites with no opportunity to either ‘play in the dirt’ or to grow anything in a garden. We have a high immigrant population at Windsor and many of the families are unfamiliar with our local produce and what the soil and climate is able to sustain. This was an excellent learning opportunity provided by the grant to educate the students and their families.

The garden we have created in our community has provided an opportunity for every single student in the school (226 students) to connect with our garden. We also invited the preschool families to our after school Garden Club and we have many families who have worked in the garden over the past four months and will continue to do so over the summer.

Moreover, we have a daycare who is out in the garden every day and over the summer the Windsor Neighbourhood Learning Centre (ELSA) adult learners with their children will also be learning in the garden, tending to it, and taking the harvest home for healthier meals.

Without hesitation we are able to confirm that the opportunity we created due to the DASH grant was successful. We involved every teacher and student in the school, the Connect Worker, many preschool families and many parent volunteers.

We had a guest speaker come in for a hands-on workshop, teaching students about soil, seeds, planting, composting, healthy eating and living and every child in the school participated. Teachers integrated the seed class learning into their lessons at school in all sorts of subjects, from science to math to health classes.

Now that the momentum is gathering, we have plans to expand this program further next year. We have partnered with the Windsor Neighbourhood Learning Centre and the Windsor Summer Session to ensure that the children’s seeding, watering and harvesting continues over the summer and into the fall. Students will come back in September to see the good work from the spring thriving, and teachers will integrate new lessons based on the garden in the fall, especially with the pumpkins and sunflowers.

Thank you for giving Windsor school this learning opportunity. It was very successful in so many ways, from the students’ experiential learning to the community it created with so many community members and the way it provided sustainable, healthy living options. It was amazing.