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A school garden and community gathering space

Published on February 14, 2013

Students enoying carrots they helped grow. Photo: Park Ave Community School.Students enjoying carrots they helped grow (Photo: Park Avenue Community School)

For 13 years, Toyota and Evergreen have partnered to deliver the Toyota Evergreen Learning Grounds Grant program, which seeks to improve the natural environment of school grounds across the country and enhance the physical, social, intellectual and emotional development of Canada’s children. As we enter a new grant year, we take a look back at one of the inspiring projects that received funding in 2012: The Community Roots Food Garden at Park Avenue Community School in Nanaimo.

Toyota Evergreen Learning Grounds first supported Park Avenue Community School in 2010–2011 to help them green their school courtyard and provide students with the opportunity to learn more about the natural environment by growing their own food. With continued funding and support in 2012, the school was able to further enhance their outdoor classroom and expand their garden by installing seven additional raised garden beds, a new worm farm, several birdhouses and Mason bee houses!

Not only has this addition enabled the students to grow more carrots, beans, potatoes and broccoli, it has also provided the entire community with the opportunity to help build and maintain the additional plots. “Our garden has become more than a just school garden project,” says School Garden coordinator Anna Dodds, from Nanaimo Foodshare—a partner of the project. “It is a community gathering place.”

With close to 20 percent of the residents in this community of First Nations heritage, it was especially important to have this cultural dimension reflected in their gardens. With this rich source of indigenous knowledge, they planted native species with traditional medicinal purposes such as salmonberry, thimbleberry, wild ginger and nodding onions.

Digging for potatoes: Photo: Park Avenue Community School.Digging for potatoes (Photo: Park Avenue Community School)

After a season of tending their food gardens, the teachers at Park Avenue Community School say the courtyard has never looked better. Even more exciting, it has helped to broaden their students’ understanding about where their food comes from, leading to an increased appreciation of healthy, fresh foods. Evergreen is thrilled to report that the students have become empowered to share their skills with their families; some have even convinced their parents to start a garden for them at home!

With the commitment and support of Toyota Canada and its Dealers, Evergreen has facilitated more than 3,000 Toyota Evergreen Learning Grounds greening projects from coast to coast, and connected over one million children to nature.

Do you think your local school or daycare would benefit from an outdoor classroom? Check our website for more details about eligibility and application guidelines. The spring planting application deadline is March 1—so don’t delay!