Food Security Grows at Arthur Hatton

Posted On Thursday May 21, 2020

These past weeks, concern about supply chains and food security has been top of mind for many.   

But food security has been on Paul Denby’s mind for years, as a grade 5/6 teacher at Arthur Hatton Elementary. His idea to provide fresh produce for families in one of Kamloops’ most economically challenged neighborhoods won a $15,000 first prize in Canadian entry in Nature’s Path’s Gardens for Good contest in 2019. He’s putting the prize money to good use.

“We quadrupled the amount of growing space we have. The area was fenced and irrigation to each garden area was put in,” Denby said. “There is still some more work to be done, as far as removing grass and finishing off the irrigation.”

Most of the construction work took place last fall right before the first snow fall, he said, noting that it has been amazing to see their vision for the space coming to fruition. Normally hands-on, this spring the students have been limited in their involvement because of the pandemic.  However, they were able to start all the plants in the garden from seed indoors at school right before Spring Break.

Well cared for at his home, the seedlings have now been transplanted along with some directly seeded vegetables.  

Peas, spinach, tomatoes, peppers, basil, dill, kale, lettuce, corn, cucumbers, pumpkins, watermelon, cantaloupe, squash and tomatillos are thriving in the new soil in the school’s sunny north shore location.

“We still have room to put in carrots, beets and a few others things,” Denby said. “We also want to have berries, grapes and a few other things along the fence. For our new and improved flower bed at the front, we have put in dahlias, geraniums, irises and cana lillies. Our tulips and daffodils are just finishing.”

The garden project is about more than food security.

“There will be an Aboriginal focus in the garden too. Obviously when the berries are planted, but there are plans for a pot or two of sweetgrass and other plants that are indigenous to our area,” said Roy Styles, Arthur Hatton’s Vice-Principal. “Paul and I are planning on speaking with some local experts about which plants will work. “

Despite the pandemic and the challenge of the keeping the spirit of project growing along with the seedlings without his students, Denby has not shifted any goals as far as how much he has wanted to plant or the scale of the garden. Student involvement has really taken a hit. But he is hopeful that students will return soon and they can have a hand in caring for the garden and beautifying the space and getting back to the real purpose of the project.

For years his classroom has been a dynamic example of BC’s new curriculum. The students grew and harvested micro greens for local restaurants, tended the small raised beds of produce for the Kamloops Farmer’s Market just steps outside the classroom. The social enterprise is all about inquiry-based learning, collaboration with community and so many more concepts that his learning environment exemplifies.

But perhaps most of all, teaching children about gardening lets them pass along their skills from school to their parents and have a hand in providing their own families with fresh, nutritious produce.

 

 

 

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