Last December, Kyle Hamilton and other Central School teachers began discussing ways to engage their students beyond standard teaching practices.
“A lot of our students suffer from attention deficit issues and a lot of them are at-risk and have a hard time sitting in a classroom, doing bookwork,” said Hamilton.
“We were looking for ways outside of the traditional methods to get them outside, connecting with nature.”
They decided growing a school garden would be a good way for the students to learn, stay physically active and have something to take ownership of.
Construction began on eight raised garden beds in March and now corn, carrots, beans, radishes, strawberries, romaine lettuce and various herbs are growing in the schoolyard.
Hamilton said the project has been positive, but not seamless.
“Like any project, we’ve had some hurdles,” said Hamliton, noting persistent absences have led some students to miss certain parts of the project.
“But for the most part, we’ve seen a lot of participation…the kids are learning.”
Fifteen-year-old Central School student Landon Markosky said he would rather spend time getting his hands dirty in the garden than sitting in a classroom while learning from a textbook.
“This is a lot better because you can actually get outside and be interactive,” said Markosky.
Ryan Witty, 16, said shovelling dirt and bark mulch was hard labour, but he still enjoyed it.
“If I had a choice between doing math or picking up a shovel, I’d pick up a shovel,” said Witty.
According to Hamilton, each phase of the garden project has offered a unique learning angle.
Students in woodworking class got involved by constructing the raised garden beds; horticulture class pupils participated in the planting of the garden; kids in foods class will eventually be able to cook with some of the herbs and vegetables grown in the schoolyard.
Hamilton added the growing process has a science element, math was involved in construction of the garden and students got physical exercise by shovelling truckloads of dirt and bark mulch.
Central School teacher Rob Law said there are several goals he hopes the garden project will help students achieve.
“We’re hoping the project will help our students with life skills such as leadership, teamwork and effective communication,” said Law.
“Another goal is to encourage our increasingly technology-addicted students to unplug and begin appreciating nature through spending time outdoors.”
Law noted the garden project may also change preconceived ideas the public may have about the school and its students.
“The example we (want to) set for the community is that Central is not a school where kids just hang out on the sidewalk and do what they like.
“This shows we care about the kids and the kids care about something as well.”