Students at St. Joseph’s elementary school are learning what it means to get their hands dirty for a good cause.
Last week, roughly 350 kids in 14 classes harvested several pounds of potatoes they planted last season to donate to the 9-10 Club Serving Soup to the hungry at St. Andrews Cathedral.
Jamie Zwicker, a Grade 3 teacher who helped with the project this year, said it allowed students to get hands on learning.
“The kids get to go outside during school and get their hands dirty,” Zwicker said. “They were looking at the way plants were held up for example by their root structure and could actually see them, rather than seeing it in a textbook or listen to a teacher drone on about it.”
The project began last year with an empty garden along West Burnside Road on church property that they had no use for. Bishop Gary Gordon of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Victoria visited the school and suggested they establish a garden on the property.
In April, a Grade 3 class planted several rows of potatoes. They also planted zucchini, squash, turnips, green peas, parsnip and cucumbers.
Throughout the summer, volunteers from the parish helped water the garden and keep it alive during the drought.
With school back in session last week, students headed to the garden to harvest the fruits of their labour.
Zwicker said the project got many students interested in ecology and how bountiful nature can be.
“Children now come with juice boxes and they don’t think it’s fruits and vegetables. It’s not a fruit or vegetable unless it’s in a little plastic container, but in actual fact, it’s not,” he said.
In the end, Zwicker expects there will be several hundred pounds of potatoes that will be used to help feed the homeless.
Doreen Keizer, with the 9-10 Club serving soup to the hungry, said the donation will help feed the roughly 150 to 300 people they see daily.
“Potatoes and turnips are something we have to buy. So any donation we get just saves our money to buy other things that are not donated like meats,” she said, adding they use potatoes in soup three days of the week. “We really appreciated being involved with the children, because I think it’s important to see a product and where it goes.”
The remainder of the food will be donated to the annual Saint Vincent de Paul food drive in October. The school has also partnered with an area outside of Durban, South Africa called the Diocese of Mariannhill, where the church will hire local men and women to work on the farms in the area.
The program has been a success and Zwicker hopes to continue and grow the garden with a new class this year.