Garden Program at Caledonia Secondary Teaches Students Great Skills for Life

Caledonia Secondary School, Terrace, BC
Grant term 2020-2022

Caledonia Secondary is a 10-12 school of about 600 students in Terrace BC. We are located in the Northwest, on the unceded territory of the Tsimshian Nation and in the Great Bear Rainforest, about an hour and half drive from the coast. We are a region greatly influenced by our natural surroundings: towering mountains, abundant wildlife including several species of salmon and white Kermode bears, and the incredible Skeena River. 

The Caledonia Herbs n’ Dirt Garden program started over five years ago when the Strathcona Christian School from Edmonton, Alberta came to our school and, in partnership with our Trades and Life Skills classes, helped build a greenhouse. With the help of Step-3 Project, Farm to Cafeteria Canada and Farm to School BC, Graydon Electric and CMSD#82, this greenhouse is now the centerpiece of our garden program. It is a self-contained unit with a solar-power system and a rain-water collection system. It is designed to grow produce in the shoulder seasons so we can harvest by the time school is out in June.

The Farm to Cafeteria Canada grant has helped support several garden-based activities in our school including indoor garden beds in our hallways and classrooms, our greenhouse, our community garden bed, a salad bar for which we have grown our own salad and micro greens, dehydrating and canning local produce and harvested moose meat, visits to local farms and a neighbourhood apiary, workshops held by local experts for staff and students and, finally, our highly successful annual plant sale. 

We have been running the plant sale for the past three years and, in that time, it has become a well known event in Terrace, BC. The Farm to Cafeteria Canada grant has helped us with the startup costs which has allowed us to make this plant sale happen. In doing so, the sale is now self-sustaining, and helps fund our garden program. This year, we grew sunflowers, the sales of which we donated to Skeena Diversity.  Skeena Diversity is a local organization that will be helping Ukraine families, who are escaping war in their country, to settle comfortably in our community. 

Students, with the help of teachers and EAs, completely run the plant sale. Students mix the soil, pot the containers, help choose and plant the seeds, water, and tend to the seedlings. This year, students chose to grow tomatoes, cucumbers, squash including pumpkin and zucchini, Thai and sweet basil, Swiss chard and flowers such as sunflowers, nasturtiums, bachelor buttons, poppies and cosmos. We plant the seeds in our indoor garden beds that are equipped with timed grow lights. These beds line the hallways and classrooms of Caledonia Secondary School for all students to see. 

Every year we aim to have our sale near Mother’s Day. Students create a small business plan ahead of time, calculating our expenses and projected revenues. They also make decisions regarding the advertising campaign including making posters, logos, slogans and social media ads. On the day of the sale, we set up all the plants in our greenhouse which is located outside the front of Caledonia Secondary. Students take shifts helping customers who come far and wide. 

“It teaches students life skills and entrepreneurship skills,” says Lynn Peerless, an educational assistant at Caledonia and garden guru. “It’s a great experience because we are able to showcase our garden program to the public.”

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