PHOTOS: Botanical gardens in Saanich offer space for youth to connect with nature and gardening

Paula McCormick, youth programs coordinator, helps children in the garden on a rainy day. (Photo courtesy of Erica Van Dyk)Paula McCormick, youth programs coordinator, helps children in the garden on a rainy day. (Photo courtesy of Erica Van Dyk)
Erica Van Dyk, the school programs coordinator at Gardens of HCP, teaches children that it is safe, fun, and important to get close to nature through gardening. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)Erica Van Dyk, the school programs coordinator at Gardens of HCP, teaches children that it is safe, fun, and important to get close to nature through gardening. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Children holding a plant before planting it for further growth in the soil in the educational garden at HCP. (Photo courtesy of Erica Van Dyk)Children holding a plant before planting it for further growth in the soil in the educational garden at HCP. (Photo courtesy of Erica Van Dyk)
Children gather around a toad in the Gardens at HCP. (Photo courtesy of Erica Van Dyk)Children gather around a toad in the Gardens at HCP. (Photo courtesy of Erica Van Dyk)

You don’t need to be afraid to get your hands dirty in the Gardens at Horticulture Centre of the Pacific (HCP), an outdoor haven on Quayle Road in Saanich where youth and family connection to nature is uplifted through gardening.

The organization that features beautiful botanical gardens is providing opportunities for youth in Greater Victoria to connect with nature through a variety of hands-on learning programs.

Providing land-based learning opportunities for children and youth in the community is a way to promote individual and environmental health, said school programs coordinator Erica Van Dyk.

“The surrounding gardens and forests serve as a classroom without walls and limitations,” said Van Dyk.

Of the many gardens across the property, the educational gardens are where children go to participate in learning how to garden.

“We have incredible volunteers that take care of the rest of the gardens but here in the educational kids garden is where they can plant and connect with the earth in a tangible way,” she said, adding that kids are eager to be involved because it creates connection and tactile empowerment.

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Programs for youth include a new Home Learners Program for children eight through 12. Aligned with the B.C. science curriculum, the home-schooled children learn about a new habitat through crafts, art, and other forms of nature and self-discovery each week – with the opportunity to socialize safely with others.

There is also a pre-kinder program called Garden Nature Academy offered to children under five. Garden Friends is a series designed for children and parents who want to learn together.

Programs are offered to schools across the district involving garden education through field trips to the gardens. One Saanich school takes a monthly trek to HCP to continue their garden learning and to see how the seeds they’ve sewed are growing.

To learn more about youth programs and other opportunities offered by the Gardens at HCP visit hcp.ca/youth-programs/.


Do you have a story tip? Email: megan.atkinsbaker@saanichnews.com.

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