The Farm to School grant has enabled Westmont Montessori School to re-design their existing garden into a truly hands-on learning area. Since the basic infrastructure was already in place, the grant enabled us to build new raised beds for each classroom to plant and care for, complete with irrigation and the option to add a hoop house for growing hardy vegetables during the winter. Additionally, we created a blueberry-lined pathway leading to a sensory garden that is specifically designed with Montessori principles in mind.
Westmont’s Learning Garden now acts as a true extension of the classroom. Students and teachers make countless connections between the curricular areas that they explore in the classroom and what is growing and developing in the school garden. The garden reinforces a key aspect of the Westmont Montessori philosophy – that movement enhances thinking and learning. As students move around the garden and interact directly with the plants, the animals and the soil, the teachers engage with them, guiding their curiosity to explore and explain what they encounter.
“The Westmont Learning Garden is a place where memories are made, exciting times to be forever cherished occur, and lessons are learned. Growing up in the welcoming community of Westmont and participating in a Montessori program, the garden that we have access to made learning fun, creative, and helped us connect with nature.”
-Alexandra, Grade 8
Inspired by the Farm to School grant, we have also connected with local farmers down the road in Metchosin and the students visited Sea Bluff Farm, a Certified Organic operation that truly embodies eating local produce. From these visits, students were challenged to select seeds and transplants and plan what they wanted to grow in the learning garden at the school. One class has planted a variety of salad greens and plans on harvesting their bounty and offering taste tests to other classes. Another classroom created a herb spiral using locally raised starters and sourced local oregano, rosemary, thyme, lemon balm, and mint. Our younger children decided to plant strawberries, raspberries, and peas. By allowing our students to visit local farms and meet actual farmers, we have planted in them a deep connection to the land. In seeing where their food is grown, many families have now chosen to adopt local and seasonal eating strategies.
The re-design of the garden wasn’t without its challenges, the greatest being getting the pressure of time to have everything ready for the students to plant this spring. With a very cold and snowy winter, we had to push off work parties that could complete the finishing touches until late in the winter. With a lot of hard work and dedicated parent, though, we were able to finish on time.
“The rejuvenation of Westmont’s Learning Garden has been a labour of love for the amazing volunteers who have led the project. The assistance provided by the Farm to School grant has been instrumental in bringing to fruition significant aspects of the project that were envisioned by the project leaders. The garden can now integrate the rural farming community in which we are situated into the students’ daily learning.”
-Magnus Hanton, Head of School