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'Good for the community': Local teacher plants seeds for community garden at park

'It's a really rich learning opportunity for kids to get them out of the textbook sometimes and into the real world,' said Lakehead professor of Harriett Todd plan for nearby park
Lakehead professor Linda Grant, as well as Harriett Todd teacher Jason Kerr (and daughter Aunika) hope to utilize this open, relatively unused section of Lakeview Park to install four garden beds as part of a teaching garden near the elementary school.

Community members and teachers from Harriett Todd Public School hope to combine education and gardening at nearby Lakeview Park.

Jason Kerr, a teacher at Harriett Todd, recently requested city council’s permission to construct four raised garden beds in a sunny section of the park, just across the street from the school, with the aim of providing students the opportunity to get outside, learn in a garden setting, and connect with the world around them.

The school has partnered with the Sharing Place and Lakehead University on the initiative, which will come at no cost to the city Kerr wrote in his recent letter to council due to grants the school and university have received.

“I was looking out my window from the school one day, and I saw this space — it's not really used,” Kerr told OrilliaMatters. “I thought, how great would it be to take this model of a community garden, and try to replicate it here?”

“The biggest thing for us is that we believe it's good for the community.”

For Lakehead University, the garden will serve as an opportunity for teacher candidates in the bachelor of education program to get outside and teach, as well.

“It's really great for our teacher candidates to have time working with elementary students and watching how they learn and getting extra practice with teaching them,” said Lakehead professor Linda Grant.

The idea is something a number of teacher candidates found exciting, Grant said.

“Once the boxes are out, and if other teachers want to participate at Lakehead, we have … a lot of students that could come and do activities with and pair up with different classes,” she said. “We would take it slow and do a few at a time, and see who's interested.”

The plan is to work with Twin Lakes Secondary School’s woodworking shop to construct the garden beds early next month with the goal of getting a garden started by mid-May.

Hardy, easy-to-grow vegetables are the likeliest candidates for the garden, including potatoes — which students can plant in the spring, and harvest in the fall, and garlic, which is planted in the fall and harvested the following spring.

Beyond taking care of the garden, the hope is to introduce students to new methods of learning, and apply classroom knowledge in a practical, outdoor setting.

“There's a fair amount of research that just taking students from a classroom to an outdoor setting — a garden, in particular — actually improves their marks, just by being outside in a beautiful place,” Grant said.

“They're really interested in being outside and they get curious, and they start asking questions," said Grant. “It's a really rich learning opportunity for kids to get them out of the textbook sometimes and into the real world.”

Kerr said the plan is to take the project slow, ensuring it grows at a sustainable rate, but the hope is to get a number of students and different classrooms involved in the future.

For now, however, he is most looking forward to getting the project started.

“It's been at least a year in progress, so I'm getting anxious,” he said. “We have the funding. We have the partnerships. We have the community support. We're ready to go.”

At last week’s council meeting, city council requested city staff report back on the feasibility and costs of establishing the garden at Lakeview Park.



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Greg McGrath-Goudie

About the Author: Greg McGrath-Goudie

Greg has been with Village Media since 2021, where he has worked as an LJI reporter for CollingwoodToday, and now as a city hall/general assignment reporter for OrilliaMatters
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