At the beginning of the year at Connaught Public School, my grade 4/5 class began on a very interesting project called Food and Finance: Growing Futures. The program began in the fall and was created by Karen Secord, the director of the Parkdale Food Centre. She was one of a group of Canadians handpicked to take part in a recent program put on by the Banff Centre aimed at finding new solutions to economic inequality.
Tower gardens were purchased for several schools in Ottawa including Devinshire, and Fisher Public School.
At the beginning of the school year the tower garden was displayed for the students to look at with a sign on it that said what is this?
Students wrote down their ideas and we placed them in a container. Some guesses included bird nest, watering tower, and a humidifier. Just this simple sign inspired inquiry and exploration of this new foreign object in their classroom.
Eventually we told the class that it was a tower garden. A tower garden in case you don’t know is a tower that pumps water up throughout the tower to pods that hold plants. The plants grow with water and light, but no soil. Nutrients are added from plastic bottles and only plants that are not root vegetables can be planted in the garden.
Michelle Richardson and I documented the impact the tower garden was having on the classroom though google forms. It was anonymous and students gave their opinion on several questions.
After some time Wentsi Yeung-the owner of Culture Kumbucha-came to our classroom. She had heard about the tower garden and proposed a business model to the grade 4/5 class to be in partnership with them. The proposal was that the class would grow basil, thyme, and mint for Wentsi, and she would then buy the herbs from them at market price. The students listened to her proposal, discussed the pros and cons, and ultimately agreed to be her business partner. Students wrote letters of acceptance to Wentsi and their business began.
Up until the last time I was there the students had made $ 39.76 from their sale of not only the herbs to Wentsi, but also lettuce they sold to the Parkdale Food Centre, for families in need of fresh food at relatively low cost.
Our classroom was featured in the Ottawa Citizen , you can click the link to learn more about the project and watch the video