Growing Kids kicks off the new school year!

Our Growing Kids team is hard at work, engaging with young people through school gardens across Vancouver. We’ve also gathered a stellar group of volunteers in our Intern program.


Interns at our first training, creating tableaus to represent our approaches to educatio

These vibrant, thoughtful, creative and passionate individuals add so much richness to our program and we’re excited to share some of their reflections on the program so far…

“Growing up in a city, my relationship with vegetables always began at the supermarket. I’m passionate to work on this with the kids because I feel like I get to learn right alongside them. Their enthusiasm for the garden is infectious, and it’s gotten me excited to start a garden of my own.”    – Jordon Miller

“Discovering that my group of 6 year olds had decided to take on the weeds of the garden bed. They were like machines removing even the toughest of tap roots. Needless to say I ended up with an armful of weeds and roots that the proud students wanted to take home!” – Laura McGrath

“I love hearing a student exclaim, “Wow! That’s how a [insert name of fruit or vegetable here] grows?” It’s great when a student can make connections between what s/he sees in the garden and what s/he has seen at the dinner table or in the grocery store, ultimately developing a deeper awareness of the origins of the food we consume.”  – Ashley Fraser


Our beautiful colour wheel from the first training…. fall colours abound!

“EYA Internship Program gives me opportunities to work with different kinds of people outside student community. Different training sessions are different moments you enjoy to learn more about your team and what you’d bring to educate the fellow children. Why waste a chance to diversify your network while being at university?” – Declan Tran

“My two passions in life are family, and climate change adaptation. The little ones in my family are simply not getting out doors enough to really respect their local environment. Granted, my generation was not exceptional, and was worse in this regard than the prior. Respect for the natural environment is best gained if instilled at a young age. For PNW urbanites it can be difficult to get themselves or their children into the forest. Therefore, first and foremost, that is why I am excited to get young people working in I their gardens.”    – Joshua Combs

“School gardens are constantly changing with the seasons and adapting to their surroundings. There is always something to learn in a garden. New species come and go, new colors, smells, textures and tastes. Our whole planet revolves around the systems that exist in the soil and plants. School gardens provide that opportunity for students to learn and have an experience in that environment.” – Laura McGrath

Wow… aren’t these people amazing!? Thanks for your thoughts, team!



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A wonderful description of the Growing Kids experience, from one of our amazing volunteers

Growing Kids.  When I first found GK, the meaning of this name seemed quite simple. But now as I reflect on the time I’ve spent volunteering as an intern with this program, I have become aware that there’s a great deal more substance to these two words than I initially thought. It could refer to Growing sustainable Kids, because we help our kids to recognize that it is their own responsibility to be mindful of the footprint they leave on this planet as individuals. It could also infer Growing food with Kids, because we help our kids to recognize the significance of understanding where their food comes from, both biologically and geographically. These two renditions that came to mind encompass a portion of what our kids get to take with them from our program.  What I am hoping to share with you rather, comes from a more personal level:  how my part in GK has led me to Grow by learning from our Kids.

GK interns with the Britannia Bounty!  Photo Credit - Ian Marcuse

GK interns with the Britannia Bounty!
Photo Credit – Ian Marcuse

As you may have gathered already, Growing Kids has a special place in my heart. Before I connected with the EYA, I’d done a lot of educational work with children around Vancouver  and the Fraser Valley, but for some reason, I had never once encountered the concept of experiential learning. When we were introduced to it at GK training in 2012, it put a complete backspin on the approach I had been taking while interacting with kids as an educator. I had always been delighted by the way children so boldly express their thoughts and feelings, unbound and unaware of the constraints of grown-up courtesy and expectations… but I had never truly recognized the true value in their perspectives.

As a preparation assignment for our training in September 2012, we were asked to watch Sir. Ken Robinson’s TED talk, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?”  After watching it, and discussing it, I began to see things a little differently. I started to understand just why children are so effortlessly creative, and why so many adults, including myself run straight into a brick wall when faced with thinking of new ideas.  As someone who has ventured though our modern school system and visited many schools over the years, I will say that I do agree with Robinson. How can creativity be nurtured and enlivened in a setting that is so stagnant? Most elementary and high schools still operate in the same way as they have since I was in school, with box-shaped classrooms, with the desks are aligned in perfect rows, facing the instructor who is the source of all-knowledge-to-be-learned (no disrespect meant, Teachers! You guys are amazing and have a tough job!). Students are given assignments based on books and videos to learn about the world around them. Yes, it’s true, they do get to go on ‘field trips’ once in awhile.  But here comes my point: Am I going too far to imagine a school where ‘field trips’ are the primary source of education, and spending time in the typical classroom is secondary? Wouldn’t this form of education be more rewarding for students, and have more stable retention in the long term?

Sometimes when I’m teaching I wish I could just morph into Miss Frizzle. Then, if we we’re learning, say about bees, all I’d have to do is round up my students, shrink my magic school bus down to the size of a little yellow buzzzz’r in a matter of seconds, then just casually have a look at what goes on inside those hives from a first-[insect!] perspective. Now that would be incredible… That is, minus all the waiver forms that would need to get signed!

Unfortunately, magic school buses have yet to be invented in this world, but this does not mean we are out of options. What we do have is our big, beautiful Earth, a never-ending classroom- and at Growing Kids that is where we do most of our learning!  We go outside to learn with our kids. We get our hands dirty, pick up worms, sniff basil and munch on fresh radishes straight from the ground. We plant seeds, watch them grow, and observe different insects come and go as they suck up nectar and pollinate our flower friends.  So many styles of learners are embraced through this approach- visual, tactile, auditory, kinaesthetic… the list goes on. And most importantly of all, creativity, diversity and personal strengths are promoted and nourished.  It is a form of learning for all members involved, and every person’s ideas are respected and listened to.

Through Growing Kids, I have learned so much from the kids we work with. My grown up problems seem so trivial when rivalled with the inspiration these children fuel me with; to look at the world with pure wonder and amazement. They see that our Earth is always changing, it is never static, and there is always something new to smell, touch, taste or listen to out there every day. I say it’s rubbish when people imply that we must let go of this fervour as adults. Instead, I say we need to be more like kids, to remain energized, invigorated, and always moving forward with the ebbs and flows of life.  If only our schools and community groups could be provided with the backing and resources to deliver our kids a learning experience that promotes explorative minds all the time, rather than in one off field trips, or 1-2 hour visits every few weeks. Think of how much faster the “human brain cloud” (my own personal definition for our collective intelligence) would grow… Future Earth would be erupting with imaginative, diverse and passionate individuals!

At this point, it is commonly known that we, human beings, are reducing our planet’s ability to support life in its infinitesimal forms at a far greater rate than ever before. To so great of a scale in fact, that we are seeing evidence of these changes within the duration of our lives. We would not exist without this incredibly unique planet Earth, or the countless number of ecosystem services its organisms provide for us. Don’t we owe it some respect? It is easy to become overwhelmed and frustrated with the massive scar that our species is leaving behind, but the time for humming and hawing is over. It is yours and mine’s personal responsibility to do what we believe will change this pattern, whenever it may be that we come to recognize this fact. Time only goes in one direction, and we can’t afford to create barriers for ourselves; to lose focus or aspiration for the better. My motion lies in my awareness that when we are gone, these kids will be the ones who remain to represent us. Some may call me a dreamer, but I believe our species still has a chance to do good for our world. As many have said, children are the future- but they need back up! So I’ll end with one final question: Can you come up with one subject in school that has greater significance for humanity than delivering our youth with the tools they require to sustain life itself? I sure can’t… So let’s get Growing, Kids!

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The Growing Kids team is growing!

Greetings Growing Kids community!

Though this blog has been quiet for a while, we have been busy as ever. First things first, the Growing Kids team has been through some big changes lately – co-coordinators Alaina and Claire have moved on to new adventures, and Elise and Rebecca have joined the EYA family. Check out our website for introductions to the new staff

The fall season was full of meeting our partner schools, getting to know the garden spaces, planting fall crops, and doing lots of learning with the students. We were constantly amazed and inspired by the level of energy and interest, and variety of knowledge that the kids bring!

We are looking forward to a little time to regroup and reflect on the past few months – we’ve learned so much in such a short time, and now it’s time to let it all sink in and help us prepare for a new year of planting seeds and discovering the wonders of the garden.

One of our favourite creations from this year.

One of our favourite creations from this year.


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Spring adventures at Britannia Secondary


the very first harvest at 8J9J

Our day began with the lovely youth at 8J9J. This is their first time building a garden, and have been working hard to get the project going! Students build 3 raised beds in March, and filled them up with fresh soil from the city. In March we also worked together to sow seeds in their indoor garden, including tomatoes, lettuces, kale and cilantro. Over the past few weeks we have planted peas, calendula, nasturtium, radish, kale, broccoli, lettuce, carrots, chives, tomatoes and cucumbers.

The second lesson we worked with Biology 11 to continue connecting curriculum to the garden. The class is learning about the phylum Animalia, so we focused on bees! Alaina shared her experience as a bee keeper, and the group gathered around various food items to understand the importance of pollinators (like coffee, chocolate, honey, and fruits). The group explored the causes of colony collapse disorder, and with the help of Erin (who coordinates many pollinator projects at the EYA), we explored the magical world of native pollinators.

Did you know there are 56 species of native bees in Vancouver? Erin’s amazing bee box sparked interest in the variety and diversity of life found right here in the city.

Together we did a sensory exploration of real, unpasteurized local honey collected not 5km away at the Means of Production Garden! Students described notes of blackberry, lavender, and blueberry and admired it’s pure golden colour.

Our afternoon with Streetfront was an enormous success – these students have grown to cherish and take great care of their garden. Together we planted a whole bed of brassicas, lettuces, wheat and even had the opportunity to admire the ever-growing peas and radishes. Their indoor garden is home to some strong looking tomato starts, and will be ready for transplanting soon!


radish tasting!






explaining how to thin radish sprouts with the 8J9J youth


peas are happily sprouting – hooray for new school gardens!


radish and kale and carrot sprouts


Volunteer intern Marika explains how to identify cotyledons


Crimson clover coming up


poppies and fireweed keep our garden bees happy!


Camas in full bloom at the B.U.G. native plant bed!



examining the wax frames with Biology 11


We discussed the importance of pollinators, including all 56 species of native pollinators in Vancouver.


taking a closer look at the EYA’s bee box, collected as part of the Pollinator Paradise program last year


Students examined native pollinators, including the different strategies of species like the Sweat bees, Mason bees and Bumble bees.


radishes are coming up in the main B.U.G

radishes are coming up in the main B.U.G

sharing stories with Streetfront after an amazing garden session - we planted lettuce and beans and red spring wheat!

sharing stories with Streetfront after an amazing garden session – we planted lettuce and beans and red spring wheat!

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Garden planting in the spring!

Yesterday we had a fantastic session at Tupper Secondary, where the students showed off their amazing indoor garden!

The oregano, cilantro, peas, and plant cuttings looked marvelous and the lab bench was transformed into a lush garden.




The students also showed off their self-designed and created hydroponics system, which was successfully growing peas. Using a small fish tank pump, the students were responsible  for figuring out the solutions, types of plants to grow and mechanisms for pumping water. Now, that’s what we like to call experiential learning! Way to go, Tupper!


The grand finale of our day together was planting our apple-centered guild. Using the principles outlined in Gaia’s Garden, the students selected plants from the 5 categories of functional properties: nutrient accumulators, mulch plants, nitrogen fixers, grass suppressing bulbs, and insect attracting plants.

Firstly we transplanted some camas bulbs, which were a staple food crop for first nations people across the plains and also on Vancouver Island. These bulbs were planted in a ring around the apple tree.

We then set out our shrubs, including red flowering currant, 2 lavender varieties, and 3 blueberries. Interspersed between these we transplanted a few of our lusciously overflowing oregano plants from inside, and hope to use these herbs in our summer harvest party.

The other plants we chose include: Bee Balm, Borage, Dill, marigolds, nasturtium, and sunflower. We planted these as seeds and are planning to transplant them out when the weather is warm, and the plants are strong. Nasturtiums will act as a mulch plant, as our first choice of comfrey was nixed by some concern of spread into the other gardens. Sunflowers and marigolds are nutrient accumulators, and will be beautiful along the greenway. The other plants are all insectary plants, and will serve to attract pollinators of all kinds! We are planning to plant some crimson clover in the later summer to cover up any bare soil and bring their nitrogen fixation on our side.

Over the course of the afternoon, we watched several ENORMOUS worms make their way through the dirt, admired a giant shiny black beetle on its’ daily cruise for food, noticed the newly emerging leaves on our apple tree, and talked about the interdependence of the plants in our guild. It is a joy and honour to be working with such bright, inspired and wondrous minds. Thank you, Tupper!



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After a year of working with Duncan Martin of Daily Eggs, Val Zwicker of the Vancouver School Board and all the Spectrum Alternate Learning Annex staff, I am thrilled to announce that we have successfully established Vancouver’s first school yard educational chicken coop!

The idea started just as such, an idea for furthering the school ground’s and incorporating more direct relationships between the garden, the school cafeteria, and the compost. After receiving a Neighborhood Small Grant through the South Vancouver Neighborhood House, we got to work in order to develop a pilot protocal. With the help of Daily Eggs, the students of Science and Tech 11 built a three-tiered compost system in order to accommodate the chicken waste and increased food scraps coming from the school lunch program. These students were also involved in building two hoop-houses to grow winter greens and extend their season. The final implementation was to build the coop!

Ms. Turner, a teacher at Spectrum, developed a brand new course called “Sustainable Resources 12:Agriculture BC” within which the chickens will be used to address specific curriculum outcomes. These include 1. students will be able to identify the organisms involved in local agriculture 2. outline their structures, roles, and physiological processes 3. explain the importance of animal care and management practices in agriculture 4. describe the effect of technology on the production of agricultural commodities.

So, on Feb. 14th, the fresh students made a field trip to Aldergrove, where we all purchased 4 laying hens. These hens, called pullets, are already 6 months old and are quite magnificent varieties! Two of the hens are Auracana (aka Easter Eggers) and lay blue and olive coloured eggs. The other two hens lay brown eggs! The students are now responsible for daily chicken care, composting, as well as gardening. The students are now able to enjoy the fresh eggs!

To keep updated on what’s cracking at Spectrum, check out their blog, which is also an integrated component of the Sustainable Resources class.

This project would not have been possible without the support of  the Spectrum Learning Centre’s principal Frances Alley, and the Vancouver School Board, including Superintendent Steve Cardwell and Sustainability Coordinator Kevin Millsep.

P1020004 The hens in their temporary storage cage at the farm in Aldergrove. 


The farm in Aldergrove!


Letting the chickens out into their new home!

The first egg, a light sky blue, was laid in the car on the way back to school. We were all amazed at how warm it still was…


Happy students, smiles and cameras were abundant!


The students just could not believe the hilarity of getting to hold a chicken, and have come to love their school yard friends. 

P1020051Duncan raises two thumbs WAY UP! 


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Winter fun with Britannia Secondary

One of Growing Kid’s most involved  schools for 2012/2013 is Britannia Secondary. Now in our second year of work, the Britannia Urban Garden (BUG) is really coming alive. So too is the school gardening community, which is one of the main goals of Growing Kids!

Our work started out mainly focused with the Street Front Alternative youth, who have come to love and take pride in their garden, which they named “Garden of Transformed Life” at a traditional aboriginal naming ceremony last year. For more photos, you can check out the Grandview Woodland’s  BUG flickr here.

This year we have had the opportunity to work with several more classes, including 8J9J, Grade 11 Biology and Grade 11/12 Cooking. As each group of students has specific needs and interests, Growing Kids has done some new workshops throughout the winter!

With 8j9J we have covered soil biology and composts, as well as garden planning and we are excited to be working with them on developing 3 of their own garden beds. More to come as this project comes to fruition this spring 🙂

The cooking class has been quite a treat in that we rarely have the opportunity to use the garden produce directly with our students. Often the produce is shared amongst the cafeteria or classroom once we have gone, but with this course we have been exploring how to use garden veggies creatively. So far our students have made tomato sauce, zucchini bread, garden herb scones, and rye honey cake using their own freshly milled rye!

Probably the most challenging and yet rewarding class has been the Biology 11 – simply because we are very focused on covering aspects of the B.C. PLO’s with our garden workshops. This year we covered aspects of plant biology and reproduction, and during this workshop had the pleasure of doing an apple tasting test using some amazing heritage apple varieties donated from the UBC apple fest!  We also explored plant propagation with these students, and taught them the principles of vegetative versus sexual reproduction in plants.

We then moved on to soil biology, where we learned about soil types and conducted our own soil samples to determine soil type. We also explored soil biological life as a part of their bacteria and fungi units. One of our stellar volunteers, Katherine, is a very experienced gardener and lead a fascinating workshop on Bokashi. The students were responsible for making the culture, and we are anticipating seeing what has happened! The final component of our soil workshops was a worm-compost session, and the classroom is now learning to care for their own vermicompost! This is in partnership with the Cooking class, as both will trade off in feeding and caring for the worm bins.

All the students are keen to get back outside, and as the weather warms we will see how the experiments carried out over winter transfer directly to our practical garden knowledge…

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Sheet mulch at Tupper Secondary

ImageThe students are eager to get to plant their guild in April! 


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experimenting with propagation

Highschool biology and chemistry courses don’t necessarily have to focus entirely on textbook readings and worksheets. In fact, experiential learning where students are responsible for design, execution and observation tend to be much more successful in integrating curriculum into practice!

At Tupper Secondary, where the Growing Kids program has the pleasure of working with Ms. Allison Gilbert’s experiential science class, we get to have fun, learn and be creative all at once.

Tupper is not unique in that they don’t already have a school garden, and this year Growing Kids has been working to help Ms. Gilbert develop both an indoor garden for plant experiments and transplants, but also an outdoor permaculture guild surrounding a small apple tree.The indoor garden is one of most common ways Growing Kids begins to introduce gardening and plant biology into the classroom, which is especially successful since school directly opposes the optimum growing season. An indoor garden allows students to apply their gardening skills right in the classroom, and it is never anything short of magical. At Tupper, the students designed various plant propagation experiments and ran them over the winter term. The hypotheses included: does rooting hormone influence the success of propagation?  does conventional store bought rooting hormone differ from to home-made willow solution in the success of propagation?  does complete organic fertilizer influence germination rate? comparison of seeds germinated under a light and heat pad to those germinated with natural light.

Students used fresh cuttings from the various EYA gardens, including red osier dogwood, lavender, and red flowering currant.

The indoor garden has proved to be instrumental in this experiential science class. 

Our next update will let you know what Tupper is up to now! Hint – spring starts and indoor home-made hydroponics! ImageImage


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A Rainy Day Harvest

Remember last week’s torrential downpour? So do we.

Of course, the worst rain of the week happened to fall on the day of Gladstone Garden Club! Nevertheless, the garden club braved the weather and got their hands muddy for the sake of harvest. We gathered mustards, baby beets, kale, swiss chard, a single potato, and other assorted greens – I swear the rain managed to make the veggies taste fresher somehow… Afterwards we gathered inside, dried off, washed our harvest, and make plans for the next few weeks over tea. March madness is just beginning!

Heather loves the rain!

Intern Heather digs the rain



Go go Gladstone garden club!

Go go Gladstone garden club!

Along with March’s busyness of planting, the Gladstone garden club has other business to attend to: the Gladstone Soil Sale is happening on March 16th at 9am. It will be held near the school tennis courts at 4105 Gladstone St. This soil is incredibly high quality and is just what you need to get your garden going for the new season! It costs $6 for 45lbs and proceeds will be split between the school’s garden club and wrestling team. They sold out of soil last year, so if you’d like to make a reservation, please contact Ms. Maley at Gladstone Secondary with your request Hope to see you there!

Gladstone Soil Sale

Gladstone Soil Sale

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