Knowlton Academy, Lac-Brome, Québec
2020-2022 (Grant Year 2)
Knowlton Academy in the Eastern Townships of QC, has been running a garden and nutrition program for 6 years that all 255 students from pre-k to Grade 7 participate in. Even though we live in a rich agricultural area, there are still many students who are not connected to where their food comes from and how it is grown so it has always been important to us to have all our students learn this and also healthy eating habits.
The program, coordinated by Jennifer Ruggins, consists of hands-on work done by all the students in the planning, planting and maintenance of our 1/3 of an acre garden. From the youngest planting potatoes and beans to the oldest setting up the hoop house and building a pergola, the program offers learning experiences for all ages. They learn about soil composition, companion planting, composting, pollinators, seed germination and much more! In the winter, they participate in cooking programs and nutrition workshops using produce from our garden.
Students have been able to visit local farms for the day to see firsthand where their food comes from and create art installations to decorate their space. Over the years, Jennifer has connected the garden program directly to curriculum by running workshops making potting soil using eggshells, worm castings and more with grade 3 science when they learn about soil composition, planting the Three Sisters garden with grade 4 ERC when they study First Nations history, and making overnight oats and learning how to build a healthy salad with cycle 1 Phys Ed as some examples. This has proved to be integral to the increase in participation of staff and students.
We are very fortunate here at Knowlton Academy to be heavily supported by our local community. Every year we receive produce, plants, seeds, financial contributions, soil and compost, equipment and more from local farms, garden centers, hardware stores, charitable organizations and private citizens. Using our social media platform and website has really helped connect the community to our project. Last November, we made dozens of muffins, soup and roasted seeds from community donated pumpkins after Halloween with grade 4 and held a bake sale open to our community and made $800 to go back into supporting our program so the students also learn about how their efforts benefit their school community. In February, the same students used some of the funds to order seeds that they planted this spring.
Since the program’s implementation, we’ve seen a huge increase in the students’ consumption of healthy fresh foods and they are excited for salad bar days! As well, they are far more willing to try things they might not normally eat – last fall we got them to try bitter melon that we grew!
The Farm to Cafeteria grant has allowed us to expand on our existing program in so many ways – by expanding our garden to creating the winter season cooking and nutrition programs, doing indoor growing and taking students to visit local farms to connect to their agricultural surrounds.
“We really like cooking our own lunch and I like the garden because we can eat the food we grow and we can share with the food bank for people who don’t have enough to eat.” – Taryn & Elly May, grade 4
The garden program at Knowlton Academy has given my K4 students great understanding of how healthy food is grown, transformed and brought to the table. They are more appreciative of what they consume when they are part of the creative/growing/cultivating process!
Emily Broadbent, teacher pre-k
The Knowlton Academy project, located in Lac-Brome in the Montérégie region, aims to strengthen the local economy by building new partnerships with neighbouring farms. Thanks to the Farm to School grant, the school is able to develop its local food supply network to provide its salad bar with fresh produce throughout the week.
The school’s “Secret Garden” gives students the opportunity to learn about the different production and harvesting phases of the food they eat. In addition, thanks to an indoor gardening system that grows small edible sprouts, local supply during the cold season is less of a problem for the school!
Their salad bar project is now an integral part of the curriculum, with food literacy being brought into the classroom. Students have the opportunity to develop their critical thinking skills and their knowledge of agriculture and food, under the supervision of parents and volunteers.