Avery Williams gardens at Artemis Place, an alternative school offering outdoor programming for young women outside the public school system. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)

Avery Williams gardens at Artemis Place, an alternative school offering outdoor programming for young women outside the public school system. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)

Outdoor garden a “healing space,” for young women.

An alternative school offering more than education for students outside of public schools.

Avery Williams holds her cupped hands out, they are filled with worms

Covered in dirt, her gloved hands have been digging, shovelling and spreading fertilizer over a small garden outside Artemis Place. In fact, today’s classroom at the alternative school supporting young women, trades textbooks for shovels – and many of their students are covered in dirt.

“I have a really bad anxiety disorder and the mainstream schools are too much for me,” said Artemis Place student Eva Rainshadow. “So this is a really helpful program here.”

Growing Schools, a program offered in partnership with LifeCycles, provides outdoor learning and food sustainability classes at the alternative school. Here young women, trans youth, and or women who are pregnant or parenting can get support from on-site daycare while they attend, to community food programs to self-paced learning. Avery Williams, a student at the school said the program has had a positive effect on her inside and outside the classroom.

“I love that we get to grow stuff that we can eat,”she said, “It’s a great place to just come outside and relax, because school sometimes can be stressful… It’s good to just come outside, sit on the bench and eat some strawberries.”

The partnership has seeded opportunities for the students, some who don’t always have an opportunity to eat healthy food, or eat from a garden at all, to get their hands dirty and their stomachs full. The school also offers a stocked kitchen so students can cook the food they grow, and eat even if they don’t have food at home.

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“We have a robust food program and community lunch here. In combination I wanted it to be a therapeutic space and a place where we could grow our own food,” said Daya Moss, a teacher at Artemis Place. “I really believe strongly in the healing power of nature and engagement with nature.”