Heritage Public School, Navan, Ontario
267 students, grades JK-8
2020-2021 (Grant Year 1)
When we received our F2S Grant in October 2020, Heritage Public School’s staff, students and local community were elated at the idea of bringing fresh, local foods and food literacy programming into the classroom. The plan for the 2020-21 school year included garden expansion and self-serve salad bar days, visits to local farms, hands-on growing and cooking experiences with community volunteers and knowledge holders – and SO much more!
Unfortunately, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and resulting lockdowns and public health restrictions negated much of our detailed and enthusiastic planning. In fact, the province of Ontario has faced the strictest and longest lockdown protocols across the country. Most of the school year’s learning took place online, and for the few months we were able to learn in-person, at school, the Covid restrictions were incredibly limiting (i.e. no volunteers allowed at the school, no external food services/delivery, masking indoors and out, no combining cohorts, etc, etc.).
So running our planned F2S activities was a challenge, to say the least.
But we were persistent and committed to follow through as best we could with the spirit of the F2S grant.
Tower Garden Installation
In February 2021, we installed 5 hydroponic indoor tower gardens. We were fortunate to see them set up at school before our next round of lockdowns and virtual learning. Not only did the gardens add a fun “fresh” look to the school’s hallways and front entrance, but it also created a ‘buzz’ of excitement within the school. Students enjoyed planting seeds and watching them sprout. As an interesting experiment, a student in grade 3 even donated fresh seeds from the pepper he was having for lunch! Staff and students also enjoyed an April Fool’s Day joke – a full head of lettuce was “planted” overnight in the towers! Unfortunately, school was closed down again too soon for additional planting and harvesting, but we are all set in hopes of growing our own salad bar greens for the coming school year!
Raising Chicks & Ducklings
Students at Heritage Public School were fortunate to experience raising baby chicks and ducklings in their classrooms! Thanks to a staff member with access to local fertilized eggs, Primary, Junior and Intermediate classes took turns hosting the incubator. Students designed safe, nurturing habitats for these fluffy creatures. When online learning resumed, egg incubation continued virtually, from a teacher’s home. Once hatched, chicks and ducklings were returned to a local farm where students have received virtual updates.
Virtual Farm Sessions
Unable to visit farms on-site or have school visitors, with Covid cohort limitations, and an overall year of uncertainty, we were forced to re-think our farm tour plans. Instead, throughout the year, we made a number of efforts to connect with local farmers and food producers on topics related to local food, health and environmental sustainability. In March 2021, we welcomed a local grain farmer, researcher, and F2S community partner, Shelley Spruit, of Against the Grain Farms. Shelley led a series of four interactive sessions teaching students about locally grown grains and how they are an important part of a healthy and sustainable food system. Classes from all divisions signed up for the workshops – from Kinder through to Intermediate students. These virtual workshops were an absolute hit and students went home to “teach” their parents about different types of nutritious grains like ancient wheat and barley.
Fall Harvesting of Raised Garden Beds
In partnership with Growing Up Organic and parent council, raised garden beds were installed a few years ago. It was hoped that student-planted crops from our gardens would be served up in our first salad bar offerings (fall 2020); unfortunately, with the ongoing restrictions against volunteers, distancing requirements and segregated cohorts, the hands-on learning was limited this year. However, kindergarten students were able to harvest some of the veggies in fall 2020, including some new taste-testing crops, like dill, fennel and sunflower seeds.
Fundraisers were a particular challenge this year, with no possibility of volunteers or activities taking place on-site or in-person. However, Heritage families and staff once again found alternatives that were not only Covid-friendly, but also aligned with our focus on growing food, local crops & raising awareness of our F2S program.
In December 2020, HPS partnered with Against the Grain Farms to offer local grains and pancake mixes (complete with recipes!) – a perfect holiday gift and opportunity to promote family culinary exploration. In April 2021, HPS launched a Plantables fundraiser where families could order ready-to-plant fruits and vegetables for their home gardens with a portion of proceeds going towards future classroom and school needs. Future fundraising plans are underway to sell produce at the Navan Farmers Market.
Student-led Farm Learning from Home
Many staff and students at Heritage PS live rurally with nearby access to farms; however, a good proportion of our student body does not have access to garden space and wildlife at home. Thanks to some of our rural students, we were able to share experiences of “life on the farm” live to all classmates.
While not specific to F2S activities, HPS made an effort to move learning outdoors where possible. Every student in our school was provided with a ‘learning bucket’ to transport their personal learning tools needed to record their observations, thinking, and reflections. The ‘learning bucket’ also turns into a ‘learning seat’ – perfect for portable outdoor lessons! We hope to explore more outdoor learning opportunities when in-person learning resumes.
Pollinator Education – Bees & Butterflies
Thanks to a virtual presentation by Cheslock Apiary, in May 2021, the kindergarten class got to see beekeeping activities live in action! Students learned about the various stages of bee development and other fun facts about these important crop pollinators.
All HPS students were provided the opportunity to learn about the life cycle of a butterfly this June thanks to our wonderful Heritage School Council and Brockville Wings. This school-wide educational activity was planned to take place at school, however, by the time our butterfly kits were ordered, we found ourselves home again learning virtually. This change of plans didn’t stop us! Families were offered the opportunity to order kits for pick up and home use, and students have been able to learn together from afar. Chrysalises are starting to form and we hope to see butterflies emerging soon for release into the wild!
While Covid-19 brought many twists to our F2S plans, we did our best to explore alternatives, connecting with farms and community to support local agriculture, food literacy and nurture students’ respect for nature.
If you have any questions about Heritage Public School’s F2S activities, please feel free to reach out to Jackie Lane Moore (HPS parent and F2S lead) at firstname.lastname@example.org