By: Rebecca Feigelsohn
This past Tuesday, I was invited to see the valuable work that community members, students, and teachers were doing at Rose Avenue PS as part of the Imagine A Garden In Every School campaign. Rose Avenue PS is one of the elite 430 schools in Ontario to hold the highest title of Eco-school status, Platinum Eco, available only to those schools that are deeply committed in Eco-literacy, conservation, and the minimalization of waste. The school gardens also teach students about healthy living and eating practices by showing them how fresh food can be fun and taste good, inspiring our future leaders to be conscious of sustainability and healthy eating. The campaign is interested in uniting the key Eco change makers in Ontario who are involved in school food gardening in order to share stories, resources and ideas to ensure the success of the program.
Green Thumbs Growing Kids, a non-profit organization committed to integrating the outdoor classroom into the Ontario curriculum by linking garden activities with science, math, nutrition, art and social studies, led the event. The launch was also funded in part by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, and supported by the TDSB, FoodShare Toronto, Toronto Public Health, and Sustain Ontario. In addition, Manulife Financial donated a whopping $10,000 to the Rose Ave garden initiative for its future continuation.
The campaign launch included inspirational speeches by celebrated Astronaut, Physician, Scientist and Leader in Environmental Education, Dr. Roberta Bondar, as well as anecdotes from the “Garden Researchers,” students from the Rose Ave Eco-team who shared their passion and recited their “I Pledge” initiative, indicating their commitment to the cause. The school-wide assembly was followed by a Colloquium, an intimate discussion of past success stories of Ontario Eco-schools as well as ideas for the future. One notable quote was presented by Meredith Hayes, FoodShare School Program and Student Nutrition Senior Manager, who relayed the impact the garden had on one student who “learned that soil is too important to be treated like dirt.” Thus far, the Eco-school initiative has been monumental in reducing greenhouse gas emission by almost 34% since 1990, according to Richard Christie, Senior Manager at the Sustainability Office of the Toronto District School Board. Sunday Harrison, Director of Green Thumbs Growing Kids, also noted that over 4000 students have participated in their school gardening program so far.
Ontario schools have been pioneers in the Eco-school program and have inspired other provinces to follow suit. By taking children out of the classroom, and engaging them in a dynamic and interactive learning space, community leaders, teachers and parents are helping to build creativity and imagination, and increasing student’s capacity to observe and think critically about ecosystems and healthy active living.
Rebecca Feigelsohn is a Toronto based editorial intern for Good Food Revolution. She recently completed her BA in English at McGill University and loves all things sweet. Follow her as she profiles Toronto pastry chefs @GoodFoodRevInt