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Birchmount School in Moncton takes its learning to the gardens

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It’s not what you’d expect to find in a typical classroom, but with over 100 heads of lettuce sprouting in a Grade 8 math room, students at Birchmount School in Moncton, N.B., are growing more than just their minds.

“It’s real life skill learning, experiential learning,” explained math teacher Ashley Baisley. “There’s a lot of math involved in it. You wouldn’t really think by looking at it, but there is math that we do. We take data, we compare our PH levels, our PPM, we track it, we chart it.”

“But it was important for them to see that they can make their own garden, in their own house, eventually, even in the winter. We can grow our own food. We can be sustainable.”

It’s all part of the Farm to Cafeteria and Farm to School project , which is helping to bring fresh food and more learning to the forefront.

Baisley says, right now, the school feeds lunch to about 200 students every day.

“The school that I teach at, they don’t have a lot of green space, so we were basically trying to figure out ways that we could grow lettuce to feed our community and school,” she said.

“This is just the beginning. So, this will hopefully be the blueprint of what we’re going to do next and we’re going to be feeding our students with this food and our community. So we’ll be washing it, prepping it with the help of culinary at NBCC and having a little feast,” she added.  

Right now, the lettuce hasn’t grown enough to eat, but students have already started to take away valuable lessons from the indoor garden.

“It’s exciting because you learn how to take responsibility and you get to learn more life skills,” said Grade 8 student Sarah Kelly.

“With prices going up for diesel and stuff and the trucks, if they can’t go or there’s a snow storm and you need to grow your own stuff, it’s better and you’ll be able to have more and your diet will be healthier,” she adds.

It also gives them a chance to do something good for the environment and make a difference for their futures.

“It’s better to grow locally because that way, it’s not using as much fossil fuels exporting it from other countries to Canada,” said Grade 8 student Brennan Grove. “Otherwise, the planet is going to get warm and climate change will take its part.”

Overall, Baisley says it’s been extremely valuable for students to have the hands on experience.

“They get to learn by doing, they get to make mistakes, they get to see me go through the process of, ‘What are we going to do to fix this.’ They give me feedback on it,” she said.

“I learn from my students every day, it’s really fun to learn with kids, and they challenge you,” she adds.

She says the topic of inflation has also come up in recent lessons, but lessons like this help give them another option.

“This is something that they’re going to take with them, this experience, they’ve said, ‘Well I did it before, I can do it again,’ and they’ll do it bigger and better,” she said.

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