Gretna Green School, Miramichi, NB
Grant term 2020-2022
Gretna Green is a school in the charming city of Miramichi, New Brunswick. It is a small K-8 school in the heart of the city yet it is surrounded by trees. The school has gotten even “greener” in the last two years as we undertook a big gardening project. Thanks to the grant money, what started as a small class project has turned into a whole-school experience exploring the concept of hydroponic growing in the months where our ground is frozen and snow-covered. Our garden will now be a whole-school effort in planting and harvesting with the help of community members.
The first-year cycle of the grant was a challenging and slow-moving process. With the covid-19 pandemic hitting New Brunswick in March of that year, everything stopped. It was very difficult to get any equipment delivered in a timely manner and we also had much stricter rules for using what we grew in the cafeteria. We ended up adapting and doing mini pop-up markets and foregoing the “self-serve” salad bar idea. As a group, we made the decision to expand the amount of produce we could grow by purchasing more hydroponic systems. It was a challenge, and it seemed the project was not progressing as fast as we had projected. By the end of the first school year with the grant, we were ready to hit the ground running for the second year.
In the second year, we relocated to a bigger space in the school which we now call the “GG Grower’s Corner”. All our hydroponics are set up with room to meet and plan our spring garden. The atmosphere in the corner is relaxing and refreshing. It is the perfect location: just off the cafeteria where we use some of the produce that we grow. We currently have 22 Sucseed hydroponics growing 12 plants each. In this second year, I enlisted the help of a coworker from the middle level to help with the students who had already been trained on the hydroponics. We now have junior growers (grade 4/5) and senior growers (grade 6-8) working together. The senior growers are experimenting with drying herbs they grow and growing harder vegetables in the systems this year, both with some success and some failures.
Now that we are in the home stretch of the grant duration, we decided to use some funds to equip a greenhouse that we had received from our cafeteria board a few years ago. We have created seedling kits for each classroom so that this spring, every student gets a chance to grow something that they will harvest in the fall when they return. We are hoping to grow these kits next year to include curriculum links and activities the classes can do to expand on their gardening knowledge. This has been nothing short of exciting for everyone in the school and it has been an incredible collaboration experience at all levels.
“I like setting up the hydroponics and watching them grow,” says grade 7 student Ella Breau. Most of her classmates have been helping with the hydroponics project since they were in grade 5. All students like to see how the plants grow. If I am in the corner working with some students, we always get asked questions by students passing by. “The lettuce always tastes so fresh!” says grade 6 student Kate Gallant. Many students love to sample the greens and herbs as they walk by; parents would be shocked at how much they eat their greens at school if they grow them!
This grant has been wonderful in inspiring both the students and the staff to learn about growing their own food year-round. Living in a province where we see inconsistent weather and four very distinct seasons that do not always allow us to grow, we have to get creative in our ways to be self-sustainable. We are now a school that grows vegetables and fruit for the cafeteria and culinary classes year-round. Teachers and students have explored integrating technology in the ways that we care for our plants, allowing us to branch out in other areas of curriculum. It has brought out a passion for growing your own food in folks who claimed they have no green thumb!