Archive for the ‘education’ Category


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!”

Ecosystem learning


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!

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A Community that stays together

by Kisha Andrews, Community Worker in Training

After two months of planning, I actually completed my first March Break program with over 200 children throughout the week.  I never expected it to be so chaotic but enjoyable at the same time. The up side of doing this March Break Program is having a group of volunteers and team leaders that can cohesively provide a program for such a large number of children. During the planning process I was in charge of contacting some of the organizations that would become guests at our program. Sometimes it felt a little frustrating to try to get a timely response from some of our contacts. But when they did confirm that they were coming, it felt like smooth sailing, especially knowing that we had all of our days booked within the week.  The fact that they would sometimes arrive 45 minutes late, built up so much anticipation, that I felt like I just wanted to get the program rolling.

filling pots

Our program consisted of three activities:  painting clay pots, planting pea shoots, and eating salad rolls they made themselves. The final component of the program that we created was a tour of the greenhouse. In my opinion the tour can set the time barriers within the program.  It can either go really fast, being that the children have been there multiple times and they are bored. Or really slow, if they are intrigued by every single plant in the greenhouse. My role as the coordinator was to conduct a tour for the children and their staff, also to help with the preparation of the other activities.  I felt a little embarrassed when they would ask about a particular plant, and I had no idea what the name of that plant was.   I was not completely ready for the tour, and I think I should have made more notes on the plants within the greenhouse, but the more I went through the greenhouse with the children, I felt more confident about the plants that I did read about.  Shockingly they were interested in the plants that looked less distinctive, but pretty in color.


This whole experience for me has been a mixture of organization, reliability, preparation, and an open mind. It’s a great feeling to know that I have gained program management skills, which I can use in my future career. Another plus side of this opportunity was the feeling of our community coming together. It is an experience that I will always remember. From the beginnning of my practicum at Green Thumbs, I have developed a realization of the importance of early childhood education. Putting a lot of thought into what we want children in our communities to learn is very important. Having a green house program, such as the one at Allan gardens; shows children that they can grow their own food, and have fun at the same time.  I really hope that this organization and others like it, grow into other communities within the GTA.


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Give Peas A Chance!



Hello everyone, my name is Brad and I am a Community Worker in training at George Brown College. If you are reading this then I am glad to say that we both survived this gruelling winter! This is me on the left.

The past four months working with Green Thumbs has been a remarkable experience. I began my practicum during the harsh weather of January, so the opportunity to spend time working in our wonderful school gardens has not presented itself.

Though I haven’t had the chance to see the three sisters (squash, corn, and beans) grow, I have been fortunate enough to participate in the planting of seeds. We have planted countless varieties of tomatoes, basil, eggplant, carrots, kale, etc. Yes, many of these will seeds grow into delicious and healthy food; but there are other seeds that produce fruits even more plentiful: the seeds of knowledge, curiosity, and questions. While a garden-fresh tomato is a wonder to behold, it’s the ideas that are being planted at GTGK that I believe will be our prize crop.

I have introduced a classroom full of kindergarteners to the wonders of composting through in-class worm bin workshops. It’s amazing that we can give worms our table scraps—food that would ordinarily be thrown into the trash—and they repay us by filling our soil with nutrients, helping us to grow more food.

The idea that humans and nature can co-exist isn’t new, but on a large scale somewhere along the way we stopped saving that idea. Birds, bees, humans, worms, dirt… we’re all in this together! The open exchange of ideas among the staff, volunteers, youth, and kids at GTGK has been inspiring. As a newcomer to urban gardening, I have thirsty roots.


Over the March Break, GTGK hosted a series of workshops at Allan Garden’s Children Conservatory. The programming was created by three students from the GBC Community Worker Program; Chris, Kisha, and me. The program allowed the kids to experience a plant from Soil to Snack. The ingredient of choice was peas. We had a week full of lively sessions that included painting clay pots, planting pea seeds, and the preparation (and more importantly the eating of) salad rolls that featured our star ingredient. The day also included a tour of the amazing greenhouse at Allan Gardens. One of my fondest memories of my time at Green Thumbs Growing Kids is giving a tour of Allen Garden to a group of children during a snow storm. This really serves to highlight the work we are doing. Like the plants in the greenhouse, we have come from near and far, and here we are under the same roof, with a common goal of growing; some of us need more sunlight and some of us need more shade.


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In June, our co-op students Prushodhj Niranjan and Pantha Azmee finished up at GTGK. They were superstars! And we will miss them.

Prushodhj and Pantha, both students in the Environmental Specialist High Skills Majors program at (school name), diligently took on a variety of tasks: leading workshops and teaching young children about vermicomposting, rebalancing and managing multiple composting sites; setting up and taking a leadership role in children’s and youth garden programs; garden maintenance—building beds, repairing a composter, planting, watering and caring for seedlings, and conditioning strawbales for an experimental garden bed. They really did it all, which is what they liked best about the co-op placement. (They said besides themselves only one other student in their class liked their coop placement and felt like they were getting something out of it–they looked at me and said happily, “we do something different all the time.”)

When Prushodhj and Pantha first came to GTGK, the school compost bins were suffering a lack of attention – we left our partner schools alone with the task and learned that they were not ready for that. The composts were all, to varying degrees, suffering from lack of turning, lack of proper browns, excesses of plastic and well, they stank, which a well-managed pile should not. Without complaint, Proshudhj and Pantha took on the compost project. They did independent research to find out the science of compost and then visited FoodShare for some instruction in mid-scale systems with Master Composter Mike Nevin. Back at Green Thumbs, they built up some muscles shoveling out the mass from the bins, and expertly shifted the balance to make healthy nutrient-rich humus by adding a combination of leaves, mulch, woodchips and wood shavings at three different sites. Then they turned the compost weekly. Now, all three sites are heating up and smelling earthy–they had become alchemists, turning food waste into gardener’s gold. Through it all, they learned not only about composting, but how to succeed in solving problems, and how to work with other youth and children, sharing their passion for the environment.

Huge gratitude to them, and all the best in whatever they pursue!

– Leslie


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july19workshopto see the full flyer click here: learning community

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On Friday July 19, from 10 – 3, we’ll host our very own training day. The theme is Learning Community: an Ecosystem Approach to School Food Gardens

WHO: Teachers, Caretakers, Education Assistants, others (inquire)

WHAT: School Food Garden Ecosystems  — One-Day Workshop

  • Explore hands-on activities, and take home elementary lesson plans linked to curriculum
  • Learn about plants and compost; gardening tips specific to school gardens, Q&A
  • Planning food for humans, food for butterflies: designing naturalized spaces and food gardens
  • Gardens tour: Rose Ave. PS, Sprucecourt PS & Winchester PS.

PLACE:  Winchester Public School, 15 Prospect St., near Parliament and Wellesley Sts, downtown Toronto.

REGISTRATION: Contact Sunday Harrison for more information and to register, or complete the form below. Email: sunday@kidsgrowing.ca, or call 416-876-1480.

PRESENTED BY: Sunday Harrison, Masters of Environmental Studies Candidate, Program Director and Founder, Green Thumbs Growing Kids. GTGK is a charitable organization that has been partnering with multiple schools supporting their gardens since 2001. Visit www.kidsgrowing.ca for more information. Also supporting the workshop will be Erin Temple, Masters of Health Science Candidate, Nutrition Communication.

The cost for the workshop is a measly $30 before July 1, and $45 after. It includes lunch and resources. The cost is partly subsidized through a grant by the Community Development Fund of the Ontario Natural Foods Co-operative. Please fill out the form below to register or to get more information. 

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It’s an exciting time for school gardens – please join us physically and metaphysically in our celebrations of a new season of growth and beauty! First up, today is May 24 — The First Annual School Garden Day, brought to life by our collaboration with EcoSource and the Ontario Edible Education Network. There’s a survey to fill out to help us all better understand school food gardens and gardeners, (as well as other children & youth food programs).

Next week on Wednesday May 29 is the Fairmount Park Farmers’ Market, adjacent to a school yard where a gardening project is underway. We’ll be selling some pea shoots and talking about how easy to do and nutritious they are, as well as just providing a fun activity for kids. Erin Temple, our newly minted practicum student from Ryerson University’s Masters of Health Science, Nutrition Communications will help make this event memorable.

Coming up Saturday June 1 is Rawlinson Community School’s Urban Farm Fun Fair, and we’re excited to have a table there. We’ve been working with Rawlinson’s amazing kindergarten teachers on our kinder-GARDEN pilot project, and this year the whole school has planned their Fun Fair to celebrate urban agriculture and highlight their school gardens!

On Wednesday June 19, we’ll get together with our eight Kinder-GARDEN pilot project teachers to go over the project and look at the spring season to date. This will form the beginning of a new resource guide, suited to Toronto climate and Ontario curriculum, for school food gardeners working with Kindergarteners. This project is supported by a grant from the Community Environment Fund of Earth Day Canada.

Then, Friday June 21, we’ll be offering a workshop at the Jane-Finch area Frontier College Connecting Communities Conference, where program leaders attend a free day of workshops and networking, gaining a better understanding of summer programs that meet the needs of children and youth. We’re excited to participate in the desire to support literacy – including environmental and food literacy – and detailing how the school garden can be a strong summertime asset to the community.

Meantime, the Urban Roots Youth project is deepening, and the youth involved are gaining confidence and knowledge about food growing, food systems and starting to tell their own stories. Two more summer jobs (in addition to two jobs through TDSB’s Focus on Youth) will be available and will be posted soon on our website. Funding for this program’s co-ordination has been generously provided by Telus Community Board and by the City of Toronto Recreation Grants.

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