Students in the environmental sustainability and science and technology classes planted strawberries

Diggin’ it in the dirt

Vic High garden project helps students make direct connection to the food chain

A mound of good, black soil lays between two rows of rectangular garden boxes in a fenced-off section of unused playing field at Victoria High School.

Students and staff stand in two lines facing the sun, as per the instructions of the First Nations elders who are here to officially bless the gardens and the plants that have begun to sprout up from the soil. The sun, emerging almost on cue for the ceremony, represents the dawning of a new day and the promise of good things to come.

That is the message and the lesson on this day, that students can, if they put their mind to it, produce good, healthy food for themselves and their families.

Teacher Jim Pine recalls the eye-opening experience of a young student from a previous year. Pine’s comparative civilization class was visiting an aquaponic farm near the school and students were working in the dirt.

“She accidentally pulled up a tiny carrot and said, ‘I didn’t know that’s where they came from!’” Pine says.

Such revelations, while incredulous to some, might be expected he said, “if the only place you’ve seen carrots is in a plastic bag at Thrifty’s.”

Students participating in the garden project are in Pine’s environmental sustainability 11 class and Andrea Hart’s science and technology 12 class.

Pine makes it a point to teach students where everyday items such as water, electricity, and food come from. In having students create and tend to this garden and get their hands dirty, he says, “we hope to show a direct relationship between the work they do and the way things grow.”

Grade 11 student Ricky Adams likes the fact the gardens will provide a good source of organic produce.

“There’s so many different places that put chemicals in the food these days,” he says, standing next to his class’s planted rows of cabbage and cilantro.

Adams’ Grade 12 schoolmate Leroy Bell, whose mother took part in the First Nations blessing of the plots, took a more holistic view of the project: “We’ve been taking a lot of resources (from the land). It’s about time we gave back to the earth.”

Hart, who also teaches Grade 9 science, says students may learn the names on the periodic table of the elements, but it’s good that they learn how certain elements combine in fruits or vegetables, for example.

“The big idea (with the project) is environmental sustainability, creating awareness of what that is and what we can do about it,” she says.

Vic High had a large, productive garden on the school grounds when the original building was erected 100 years ago. At the time, rural sciences were part of the curriculum and the produce was distributed to students and around the neighbourhood.

Vic High principal Randi Falls says the new garden is a good example of project-based learning.

“We wanted to provide students with the opportunity to solve problems and work co-operatively in a meaningful and tangible way,” she says, noting the project brings the school full circle from the time the original garden was planted.

First Nations elders who gave their spiritual blessing to the garden spoke of the students going back to the basics by growing their own food, taking care of the Earth and each other.

Esquimalt Nation elder Mary Anne Thomas called the students “beautiful flowers” who have grown, just like the plants that will gradually spring up on this site.

•••

Local merchants got on board for Vic High’s garden project.

Denis Madsen, owner of Tower Fence, told an enquiring student that he grew up on Gladstone Street, steps away from the site. He was looking for a way to give something back to the community and donated the fencing and labour – more than requested – that protects the gardens.

Among other donors, and there were many, Vic West Rona offered up all of the wood for building the raised beds and Ellice Recycling provided the rich soil.

Students in Jim Pine and Andrea Hart’s classes, as well as the school’s garden club, will help maintain the beds until school lets out next month. Through the summer, volunteers from the Greater Victoria Compost Education Centre, next door on Chambers Street, will regularly look after the plants and the harvesting.

Just Posted

Deep Cove man running 50 km every month through his 50th birthday year

Ultrarunner hopes Deep 50 Challenge will raise $5,000 for Help Fill A Dream

Oak Bay to host secondary suite open house on Thursday

Online secondary suite survey will run April 25 until May 10

Local author wins gold medal for new book Fat Cats

Former parks warden’s series welcomes new addition to the canon

Ancient microbes discovered off the Juan de Fuca Ridge potentially offers glimpse into alien life

The marine bacteria is dependent on hydrogen, a compound present almost everywhere

Saanich rental project wins silver by going ‘green’

The Verve rental housing project stands at the corner of Boleskine Road and Whittier Avenue

WATCH: Movie star and PACE alum Calum Worthy talks musical theatre and his career

“American Vandal” and “Austin and Ally” actor has been returning to the program for over 20 years

POLL: How often does your family use BC Ferries?

Navigating the lineups for BC Ferries is a way of life for… Continue reading

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for the week of April 16

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

RCMP confirm witnesses say body found at Kelowna’s Gyro Beach

Police tape is blocking part of the beach and several RCMP officers are on scene.

B.C. fire department rescues kittens

Enderby homeowner not aware kittens in wood pile near garbage pile fire that got out of hand

QUIZ: How much do you know about Easter?

Take this short quiz and put your knowledge to the test

B.C. VIEWS: NDP’s lawyer show is turning into a horror movie

Court actions pile up over pipelines, car insurance, care aides

Global Affairs warns Canadians in Sri Lanka there could be more attacks

A series of bomb blasts killed at least 207 people and injured hundreds more

Most Read