Upon arriving to Bella Bella in late August last year for my first year teaching in this breathtakingly beautiful community, I was extremely pleased to find a school garden for outdoor learning opportunities. However, on closer examination I found the garden to be in quite a state of disrepair. It turns out, the garden hadn’t been tended to in several years and was now looking more like something out of an HGTV Gardening Disaster reality show! Thoughts changed from lesson plans to plan of attack…and so the journey began.
I was quick to find allies in my efforts to reinstate the garden to its former glory, and the ‘TO DO’ list was drafted. First we needed money…and that required a proposal. After drafting a plan on paper, we were fortunate to receive a grant from Farm to School BC that would kindly be matched by our school board. Then the hard work began.
Alex was brought in to do the hard labour, things we couldn’t rely on students to do. Once the initial work had begun and hazards had been removed, students were brought in as reinforcements to begin tilling the soil and prepping for planting. The initial seeding was done, then done again, and done again…it turns out that because we still had SO many weeds throughout the garden, the little ones didn’t realize we were planting and because seeds don’t sprout overnight, they rather enjoyed playing in the fresh dirt of the planting boxes. Side note here….next time, involve the younger students first so they see the seeds being planted and understand the new soil was not meant for playing in.
Once the message was clearer and the word was out, whole classes began to participate. We had students planting potatoes, transplanting kale into bigger beds and refreshing the look of the boards with a fresh coat of paint. Gravel was laid to create walkways and rid the garden of those ever invasive weeds, and finally we have something that looks more like a garden.
The funding from farm to school made an enormous difference with our garden project. It helped to show the school board and community that the garden remains a valuable and important aspect of the outdoor learning that takes place here at BBCS. We’ve also been able to hire Al in a full time capacity since joining the Youth Centre in a larger community network of gardens that will help provide care and maintenance throughout the summer months, allowing us to maintain what we have and continue planting during different seasons. Our Youth Centre receives its own funding through the Health Centre, and they will help provide the maintenance crew over the summer by hiring youth from the community to work in all four of the community gardens. Lucky for us, Al has been hired to help lead the youth maintenance team.
We’ve come a long way with our school garden and we’ve got a long way to go. We continue to plan and add to our ‘TO DO’ list as we work our way to completing the ‘big picture’ for our garden. Future endeavours include seasonal harvests and plantings, and building a compost box within the garden, re-establishing the composting program within the school, making use of this organic waste in our compost box to make our own soil. The theme of ‘re-establish’, ‘restore’ and ‘revitalize’ comes out of having existing foundations in place for different sustainable programming. What I’ve discovered to be the key to the success of these programs is something that hasn’t been in place before. Previously, teachers at the school were leading these initiatives and once they left, there wasn’t anyone to take over. The future success of our efforts, or the fruits of our labour, will be in relinquishing control to the students, building them up to be the leaders of these programs. Through working side by side and developing their skills and interests, our students will be able to take over the leadership of the sustainability initiatives we are putting into place. When this happens, I’ll know I’ve been successful in my own endeavours.