Outdoor Gardening with Cairine Wilson Secondary School

Cairine Wilson was one of the first high schools in Ottawa to work with Growing Up Organic. Before this, Growing Up Organic had focused only on building gardens and giving workshops at Ottawa elementary schools but teacher Malia Robin thought installing a school garden would be a great contribution towards this Orleans school’s Platinum Ecoschool status. Malia worked with Growing Up Organic’s coordinator to link their programs to the geography (livable communities) and civics (civic issues and personal action) high school curriculums.

The students, along with Growing Up Organic, constructed four raised beds. Malia, who teaches geography and Nancy Arnott-Conroy, the community living teacher bring their classes together for the Growing Up Organic workshops. They feel this provides an opportunity to bring together students who would otherwise not interact and brings together different aspects of the student experience to the garden.

Malia would love to have more time to work with Growing up Organic. She, like many other teachers, believes that the program is too short and each workshop should be expanded over three days instead of one. For the amount of time the students have in the garden they learn a lot. Malia believes it is a great way to make connections to nature and the wider world and connects well to the civics curriculum. “The Science of It (seed saving workshop) is amazing”, says Malia. “When you show the kids exactly where the seeds are, they have no idea. Even in high school they don’t really realize the very wide variety of strategies the plants have for producing seeds and how a seed grows into a plant and then gives many more seeds to to plant later.”

Story: Allegra Newman

Photos: Malia Robin