Connecting kids with healthy food from seed to harvest
Classroom Gardens brings indoor gardening into Ottawa classrooms across all four school boards. Throughout the school year, and even through the winter months, young students grow vegetables from seed and learn in a hands-on way about plants, nutrition, healthy eating, and entrepreneurship. Students have the opportunity to eat the food they grow, and share it with their friends, family, and the broader community.
The Ottawa Network for Education (ONFE) is partnering with all four school boards in the Ottawa area this year to launch a new gardening pilot program called “Classroom Gardens”. Each of the eight participating schools (two in each school board) works with ONFE to create indoor gardens – that grow over 50 edible plants at a time. That’s a lot of healthy food to share with students, their families, and neighbourhoods!
Our Classroom Gardens program was inspired by the Green Bronx Machine, a highly recognized indoor gardening program created by Steven Ritz in South Bronx.
Research shows that school gardens - indoor and outdoor - offer students an important opportunity for collaborative experiential learning that aligns with many core subject areas like writing, math, and science. Gardens also promote student well-being - and provide young children with a hands-on connection to healthy eating, nutrition, and sources of food.
ONFE’s program is targeted at Grade 3 and 5 students. Grade 3 classes in each school grow plants with their teacher and the support of ONFE. Together they will start seeds, build the gardens, transplant seedlings, and harvest the vegetables. ONFE will also develop educational materials and lesson plans for teachers to link Grade 3 curriculum with the growing cycles of the plants.
Over the next year, Grade 5 students will have the chance to participate in a Junior Achievement (JA) program that is linked to the Classroom Gardens program. We aim to partner each Grade 5 class with a Grade 3 class so that together, they can create a business opportunity using the vegetables (e.g. a lunch salad bar in the cafeteria, a take-home fresh veggie box, etc.). This experience, along with the community connections made through this program, will engage the students in critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, and entrepreneurship.