With blowing snow advisories still in effect in Corner Brook, Newfoundland students and teachers at Immaculate Heart of Mary school may not have great visibility of their greenhouse, but their Farm to School vision sure is clear!
Immaculate Heart of Mary School is an independently operated, private school with approximately 200 students from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12 located on the west coast of the island of Newfoundland in the city of Corner Brook. The school has a large greenhouse on its property and is gearing up for another busy growing season.
Throughout the years, a regular group of enthusiastic students and teachers have been engaged with the greenhouse tasks, including planting, watering, turning soil, rotating plants, fertilizing and tasting. Teachers regularly accompany students out to harvest tomatoes, lettuces and herbs then take them inside where they transform the fruits of their labour into tasty salads, pizzas, and smoothies. They want to take that hands-on learning to the next level this year.
On the eve of the second major storm of spring, 2017, parents and teachers got together for a meeting to reflect on how they would revitalize the greenhouse in a way that would best serve its students. The school knows that tying greenhouse activities with curriculum is critical for success, and have begun brainstorming about how each grade level can contribute to the growth of the garden. They’ve come up with a plan whereby older students will be responsible for building beds and hangers as a part of the enrichment program and elementary science students will be focused on developing ideal soil compositions.
The youngest students, enrolled in Junior Kindergarten and Kindergarten will tending to starter seeds as they observe the plant life cycle, while students in grades 1-2 will be responsible for raising butterflies and beneficial insects to help bring their greenhouse vision to life. A local plant specialist is lined up to teach the students about all the considerations that must be made when growing plants and organizing a greenhouse (e.g., ambient temperatures, sun exposure, individual plant needs, etc.). They will be working closely together to design a functional layout that includes raised beds, ground beds, hanging plant features, herb gardens, as well as outdoor beds for root vegetables.
The school is eager to bring its broader community together to mark milestones as things move forward at Immaculate Heart of Mary and plans are underway to kick off the upcoming growing season with a Spring Fling. Looking forward, they want to give students the chance to showcase their hard work and share the harvest. They have also been exploring the idea of hosting a Farmers Market in the fall. Teacher Heather Moss, one of the lead champions at the school, notes this season they’d really like to see the integration of the student grown vegetables, fruits, and herbs into their cafeteria service – a move that is sure to make students and teachers smile.