It’s spring and time to start thinking about gardening, but Rosslanders say to wait and plant when the top of Mount Roberts loses its snow.
However, the Plant Club at Seven Summits Centre for Learning has found a workaround with hydroponics.
Hydroponics is the process of growing plants indoors without the use of soil. This choice is ideal for going beyond the plant start stage.
Instead, hydroponics grows the plant from seed to maturity, so they are ready to go into the ground once the weather permits.
A group of twelve students from Seven Summits Centre for Learning are keen to learn sustainable gardening to feed their nutritional needs.
The club leader, Ber Laird, explained: “Plant club is an incredible student opportunity for us. I never thought that we, as students, could grow and harvest plants to eat at the Centre within such a short period.”
The students have been using self-contained hydroponic appliances that grow a dozen plants at a time. The kits are complete with lights, a self-watering pump, and timers, making the growing process ideal.
“It has been amazing watching how quickly the plants have been growing; the hydroponic system is so cool, and the plants are growing like crazy,” said Laird. “I have eaten lettuce already.”
The participating cohort is multi-grades from Grades 8 through 12. From set up to the final plant, students are each responsible for their individual hydroponic process.
“The process was quite simple and only required a basic understanding to follow the directions. Beyond that, I have learned that this group is larger than expected because many more students are interested than I thought would want to join,” concludes Laird.
In collaboration with root-to-table farming mentors John Abenante from Earthy Organics Farm, and Miche Warwick from Happy Hills Farm, students are learning the many aspects and options for gardening.
“Our goal at Earthy Organics is to grow, pick, and provide healthy produce. When it’s fresh, it all tastes better. Crispy, crunchy, and full of flavour, freshly picked is indisputably the best,” said Abenante.
Warwick continued:1 “Eating locally is one, if not the most important thing we can do to increase the sustainability of a community, and ultimately this should begin with teaching about food production and farming in schools.
“The School Gardens Grant and the project the 7S Plant Club is working on are great examples of how we can start to bring farm and food education into the current curriculum. It’s imperative we move quickly in the direction of prioritizing these learning opportunities for our youth.”
Generous funding from Whole Kids Foundation Gardening Grant makes these plant club activities possible. This grant supports farm-to-food teaching. By connecting classrooms to gardens, students learn valuable lessons about dietary sustainability through gardening.
“Not only is the plant club a great opportunity for all 7S students, but it also directly ties into the Life Science 11 course curriculum where our Grade 11 and 12 students are learning about biodiversity, specifically the biodiversity, anatomy and physiology, as well as the reproduction of plants in the month of April,” said the 7S Science teacher Jenn Boutilier. “We have just started our plant kingdom unit, and the students will be using the ‘gardens’ to more closely examine structures of the planted species as the plants grow.”
Gardens rooted in the community are supported in many ways to succeed. These partnerships provide support and overall sustainability. Now, volunteer support, in-kind donations, free garden consultations, or financial support are all welcome to maintain this project. Grant info: https://www.wholekidsfoundation.org/programs/school-gardens-grant.