Char-Lan High School in Williamstown, east of Cornwall, is giving its students a more than passing experience with gardening. They have several raised beds outside the school, with a greenhouse to start seeds in. They have an orchard, thanks to a $3,000 grant from Tree Canada. And they have a green wall from ZipGrow inside the Char-Lan to keep students interested through half the school year when the outside is blanketed in snow. They also grow orchids in winter.
The ZipGrow wall is a hydroponic system that gives students a chance to learn about the science of nutrients involved in plant growth. Located outside the staff room, it also improves the quality of the air and gives students and staff a respite from the cream-coloured walls and floor-polished hallways.
Students at Char-Lan can gain experience with the gardening through volunteering, through taking courses, or through participating in the Specialist High Skills Major in Agriculture. The SHSM gives students intensive training, through 9 courses in Grades 11 and 12, that will give them a leg up in agriculture courses in post-secondary school or in in working directly out of high school.
The green initiatives serve students in the agricultural program, offering hands-on learning. They also serve as a space for kids from Williamstown Public School, across the street, to learn about and spend time among growing things. The harvest of fruits and vegetables is used for the in-school free breakfast program, for the culinary program, and to give kindergarteners a treat when they come for visit.
Other students are involved in the educational aspect, too; for instance, kids in shop built the greenhouse, the boxes and a cold-frame, and a Grade-9 science class designed a butterfly garden and grew seedlings for it.
To get the gardens through the summer, English teacher and Green Team leader Heather Grant weeds and waters with the help of brother and sister, Kieran and Jorja McLeod. The McLeods get volunteer hours, necessary for students to graduate.
Teachers Cathy MacDougall and Kathy Ryan, at Williamstown Public School across the street, run the Eco Club, which planted their own pollinator-friendly garden last year. Susan MacDougall teaches Kindergarten and Grade 1; her students plant seeds for the Char-Lan vegetable garden each year.
Heather Grant has received recognition this year for all her efforts. The Upper Canada District School Board has selected the Green Team for a Trustee Innovation Award this fall.
For more information on SHSM certification, follow the link: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/morestudentsuccess/shsm.html