Once upon December 2017, three of Nanaimo Foodshare’s Community Roots School Garden Education Facilitators collaborated to begin developing earlier group brainstorms to provide easy-to-use food garden growing-related resources, for participating public school teachers to use with their classes.

The original plan, with anticipated funding from Farm2School BC and Nanaimo Foodshare, was to develop four “Lit Kits” broadly themed Compost, Soil & Water, Critters and Plants & Seeds. Our work began with looking at and choosing the most relevant of BC’s new curricular outcomes and matching them up with learning outcomes and activities in each of the above four garden-themed topic areas…

Our team leader developed a PowerPoint Presentation to describe the project and initiated the formation of an advisory committee, to whom we presented the project, its scope and goals, at what we called our first ‘SOIL’ (Supporting Outdoor Inspired Learning) Lit Kit advisory meeting on February 8th, 2018. During this meeting, and later again after presenting at Nanaimo/Ladysmith School District Professional Development Day on February 19th, 2018, our team sought collaboration from attendees in the form of reviewing and providing feedback on what we had developed so far – our overall plan, lesson plans and ‘quick guides’ or overviews, curricular connections, and supporting hands-on learning materials that would be provided in totes and collectively be called a ‘SOIL Lit Kit’. Later the advisory group, composed of teachers, student-teachers, principals, parents, garden facilitators, VIU Education Department professors and Vancouver Island Food Hub representatives, was named ‘SOILAC’ (Supporting Outdoor Inspired Learning Advisory Committee). Feedback and guidance from both the advisory group and participating teachers and principals during the ProD Day was useful and plentiful!

We also presented to and sought collaboration with a class of student teachers from VIU’s Education Department (February 7, 2018), which proved fruitful in terms of garnering resource development support and enthusiasm, but unrealistic in terms of the breadth of resource development we were initially aiming for from the event.

While continuing to research and develop curricularly-relevant lesson plans, we realized that the work was complex; there was a lot of information to synthesize, summarize, format, print and organize. Then there was the gathering and organizing of sets of appropriate materials. It took longer than expected and we ended up developing one kit (for each of our seven participating elementary schools) instead of four. We were also getting toward the end of the school year by the time our first set of kits was complete, so the part of our plan to have teachers use the resources and provide feedback seemed to have become unmanageable.

Later in the process the Garden Education Facilitator at Georgia Avenue School was supported by one of the teaching staff (one of the SOILAC members) to present the project to the teachers at the school for their school-based Professional Development Day on May 11th, 2018. Teachers, student-teachers and support staff with representation from all grade levels from kindergarten to grade 7 provided additional relevant feedback and guidance for further development of the SOIL Lit Kit resource and enthusiastically participated in one of the provided activities “build a compost in a bag” which each participant took away for care and decomposition…

Three teachers later reported the following:

  1. A grade one teacher transferred her learning that the compost in a bag needed to “breathe” to each of her students successfully growing bean seeds in bags, where an earlier trial without straws had failed.
  2. One teacher said he threw out the bag a couple of weeks in.
  3. On June 22nd a grade 7 teacher brought finished compost from the bag for which he had been following care instructions since the May 11th ProD day. When asked whether the students had been observing the changes he replied that some of them were interested, so he had explained it to them, but that they hadn’t officially documented anything.

Present Main Learning: At onset to provide more support and/or a platform to receive feedback; to provide assessment tools to support and encourage teachers to a. have their students participate and b. provide feedback to garden facilitators as to how the process unfolded.

Note: Much of the earlier group feedback from teachers was positive and related to the Kits’ including clear, easy to use, curricularly-relevant instructions and corresponding, grade level-appropriate assessment tools.

Present Main Successes: wide-ranging enthusiasm and participation in this community development project. Thank you everyone for your tremendous support! We plan to continue the project, further developing and providing SOIL Lit Kit learning resources!