Sprouting Change: The RBHS H.E.A.T. Sustainable Produce Project
Caitlin Courchesne is a member of the Healthy Eating Activist Team (H.E.A.T.) at Robert Bateman High School in Burlington, PEI. She and her fellow team members plan to create an outdoor classroom, including an organic vegetable garden, an indoor greenhouse, and a rooftop garden, with the hope that they will “not only expose students to the process that food undergoes to reach their plates, but also to teach a new lifestyle through both education and experience.” By increasing the green space available to students and maintaining a sustainable organic garden, H.E.A.T. expects that students will become more aware of the importance of growing and eating local, organic produce.
Members of H.E.A.T. are focused on local food, with a broader goal of responding to the global crisis of climate change: “Our school garden project will follow completely organic growing practices because synthetic pesticides and fertilizers are often made of harmful fossil fuels. Additionally, we plan to plant heirloom crops to promote biogenetic diversity, which will maintain diversity throughout the food chain.”
At the school level, crops from the Sustainable Produce Project will be used in the culinary program, giving students greater access to affordable, nutritious, and locally-grown food options. “We want students to adopt a new mindset about food,” says Caitlin. “Anyone can grow nutritious food, and the sustainability of this food is essential for the future of our generation and of our planet.”
Here's a pop quiz: If you were starting a garden on Prince Edward Island, what organic fertilizer would you have readily to hand to amend your soil and nourish your plants naturally?
The answer, at least for Parkdale Elementary School in Charlottetown, P.E.I., is shellfish compost. This grant will help buy one yard of it, along with topsoil, mulch and lumber, which together will create Parkdale's School Ground Biodiversity Gardens.
A group of students from Grades 4, 5 and 6 have developed the plan for the project, which includes two wildlife gardens and a vegetable plot near the school's outdoor classroom area.
Those students will be doing the frame construction and choosing the seeds, seedlings and plants, an experience Donna Clarke, the school's guidance counselor and the project's leader, says "can supplement the science and math curriculum outcomes."
Once it comes time to wield the shovels, rakes and wheelbarrow funded by the grant, "all students will be invited to participate in the planting," says Clarke, "and the harvest will be available to all classes who choose to participate in our organic, pesticide-free vegetable garden."
We accept applications for the program each February & September.