Archive for the ‘school gardens’ 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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kid looking closely at snailBy Marika MacLean

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.


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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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Gardens and Kitchens in Every School

Fantastic article in NOW Magazine by Jonah Shein; support for children’s and youth food literacy across the curriculum.

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