This blog is now part of our website here.
We’re having a party and would love you to come. Raise your glass to Green Thumbs Growing Kids’ learning gardens programs for kids, youth and our neighbourhoods. Try biodynamic wines of Southbrook Winery paired with delicious bites prepared by chef Chris Klugman of Paintbox Bistro, and delectables from Chocosol. There’ll be tunes courtesy of Regent Park School of Music, plus an amazing Silent Auction. You won’t want to miss it!
Date: Saturday November 28
Time: 4-7 pm
Place: PaintBox Bistro, 555 Dundas St. East
Five-year-olds don’t always want to eat their vegetables. But when they’ve spent time exploring a schoolyard garden and picking their own, eating vegetables is suddenly exciting. Call it a “Salad Celebration,” and orders for a “double-double black magic kale” start rolling in.
More than 160 children and parents a week enjoyed summer activities hosted by Green Thumbs this year at Winchester and Lord Dufferin Public Schools. Celebrating local food in our downtown eastside community meant trying new textures and flavours as part of learning how to identify edible plants and understand what makes them healthy for us. “I am a carrot,” said one 6-year-old, when told that he is what he eats. “I can always find this type of root in my fridge!”
Healthy food grows best in a healthy ecosystem, where biodiversity can thrive. Investigating worms and insects and how they build their homes in the Green Thumbs gardens was another popular summer activity. “I am certain that we are growing little green thumbs and a healthy community that appreciates the local environment,” said Food and Garden Educator, Ivanna Prots. “I believe we are raising the next generation to solve environmental problems.”
“I hope we can do the same program again next year,” one teacher wrote following a day in the garden. But one child said it best: “I would like to stay with Green Thumbs forever!”
Green Thumbs is deeply grateful to our 2014-2015 Food and Garden Educator, Ivanna Prots. As a Master of Science in Botany and Zoology with 10+ years of experience working with students of all ages and learning styles, Ms. Prots brought a respectful and empathetic teaching style and broad-based knowledge of environmental issues relating to soil, plants, animals, and insects to our garden and greenhouse programs. Experienced in both curriculum design and delivery for large and small groups, she is particularly gifted in using garden-and-art-based learning to open windows for students with special needs, including those with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Ivanna Prots is off on new adventures, and we wish her the very best!
Summer at Green Thumbs
by James Malekzadeh
This summer I had the pleasure of working with Green Thumbs Growing Kids as a Garden Program Leader. When I learned that I was hired, I was very excited for the opportunity to have such a unique summer job. I did not know, however, that I would learn countless new things and substantially grow as a person in my two months with the organization.
Besides all of the valuable gardening knowledge I attained, which I cannot overstate, I feel that my entire social consciousness changed while working for Green Thumbs. Getting involved in neighbourhoods like Regent Park and St. James Town introduced me to falsely stigmatized areas that I had only walked through or read about.
I learned the importance of promoting locally grown, healthy food in densely populated and historically low-income areas. The more I immersed myself in the community gardens and the culture surrounding urban gardening, the more I began to notice the inventive ways that people in these neighbourhoods had taken gardening upon themselves. In Regent Park, inner courtyards are used to their fullest capabilities to grow vegetables and greens. In St. Jamestown, I often noticed balconies featuring lush greenery sticking out amongst the monotonous white high rises.
The fact that this whole aspect of Toronto’s identity was unknown and overlooked by me before is probably the greatest change that occurred in me over the summer. My mind opened up to a new method of living and a new understanding of how people in a dense urban setting are able to harness their surroundings and their resources in order to produce something sustainable. From now on, as I walk and bike through these communities, I will hold this knowledge with high regard, along with my respect for how much goes on in this city that you have to get close to, to see.
James Malekzadeh is a film student at Ryerson University.
This Saturday! Prizes and a draw for a pair of Keen Shoes…. come visit each garden for more chances to win. Meet at Sherbourne TTC Station at 10:30 am.
The children who came to Winchester Garden this past week have blown me away with their remarkable ability to absorb information and their willingness to learn. A goal of mine working at Green Thumbs was to foster independence in these young children. They are at the age where they stop being spoon fed and the transition into this newfound independence can be challenging. Through this program, children learned to take initiative by understanding where food comes from and how to grow it on your own.
For each program, we had set up three stations: a storytelling and planting station, a five senses station, and an investigation station. For most of the week I ran the planting station but I had the chance to work at the other stations as well to see how children learn in different circumstances. Most of these kids had never planted anything before, but were very eager to learn. I encouraged them to do each step independently but they often asked for my assistance. Over the week I acquired tricks to get them to do things on their own, such as glorifying the feat of autonomy so that each of them would be less reliant. At the end of the session I asked the children to summarize what plants needed to grow which I initially taught through reading a book called Michael’s Story. A few enthusiastic kids raised their hands and repeated the five components necessary to grow a plant: air, water, soil, sun, and space.
At the five senses station we went around the garden seeing, smelling, tasting, and touching plants. One kid had to check with me to see if the food was healthy before he ate it so that he would grow up strong. In my experience, the kids loved the taste of kale and currants and the smell of peppermint and rosemary. They stuck their hands out at me exclaiming, “More! More!” They were enthralled that a bush could hide so many bright red berries.
The children were incredibly engaged at the investigation station. One girl even said that she’d never seen a snail before! They spent ages studying the markings on a bee or counting the legs of a potato bug. They learned about the interconnectedness of all things and how tiny worms without any legs are capable of making soil for plants to grow.
As I taught the children, I began to learn from them. I discovered how effective the hands-on approach was for young children. I also saw how focusing on the children and their backgrounds in gardening was just as important as teaching them, because they might have something fascinating to share with the group. As I was presenting to them, I was just reciting information that I already knew, but this was all new to them so they welcomed it with unbiased minds. Their thoughtful inquiries motivated me to question things more deeply as well. A child’s mind is an ideal space to cultivate inspiring creative thoughts to look at the world differently. Gardening is a great way to encourage children to grow a better world.
Marika is a summer Garden Program Leader at Green Thumbs. She is an Environmental Studies Major at York University and enjoys reading, writing poems, and painting.
Green Thumbs is in our 16th year of operation, and our 7th year since incorporating as a non-profit organization. Our Board of Directors, always an eclectic and fun bunch, completed strategic planning with volunteers and staff in 2014. We are looking for three new Board members. Please see the posting here.
Our Annual General Meeting will be on Thursday June 25, 5-7 pm, here at our new digs at the Centre for Social Innovation Regent Park (585 Dundas St. E., 3rd floor). Chimu Titi and Urban Roots Youth participants will be creating and serving a lovely light seasonal meal with many ingredients from our gardens. The theme is Hot Days… Cool Cuisine!
Chimu and the youth will prepare foods that in the Ayurvedic tradition are cooling, refreshing and support the body through the summer heat. Sweet Massaged Kale Salad with Sesame Dressing, Veggie Pasta with Basil Pesto, Vegan Bubble & Squeak potato pancakes, and BBQ tempeh are on the menu. To drink? Strawberry and mint lemonade with healthy sweeteners, and Lemon Cupcakes with Juneberry compote for dessert. You gotta come!
RSVP to Cassie Scott, info (at) kidsgrowing.ca, by June 18. The cost to join and vote is $15.00. Current members (joined since October 2014) can renew for $5.00.