Dirty Hands, Happy Students

On the first day of school last week, students in Steven Schultz’s high-school agriculture class in Lacombe, Alta., toured their greenhouse and edible gardens, harvesting gooseberries, cherries and grapes for a canning project. After school, the beekeeping club conducted a postsummer hive inspection, harvesting 60 kilograms of honey from just one of its three hives.

These tasks are part of Lacombe Composite High School’s EcoVision Club, designed 13 years ago to inspire young leaders to make an environmental difference. Science teacher Schultz has been with the project since the beginning, when a student approached him after class.

“She said, ‘We can talk about the environment until we’re blue in the face, but unless we take action, it’s kind of useless,'” he recalls. The club’s first project was a rooftop solar-panel system, which reduced the school’s energy use by about 5 per cent.

In Toronto, Paul Taylor is the executive director of FoodShare, which facilitates public-school food and urban agriculture programs as well as community food-security initiatives. It’s independently run and funded, and dedicated to helping local schools overcome these problems.

Students have grown and harvested more than 13,000 kilograms of produce on school lawns and rooftops through School Grown, FoodShare’s schoolyard gardening project. There’s also a new pilot project, the Good Food Machine, which allows the most urban of youth to participate using aeroponics, mobile kitchen carts and digital learning tools.

Selling the fruits of students’ labour also helps fund the Alpine Edibles program run by the Canadian Rockies Public Schools board in Alberta. There, gardening expert Christian Wright works with teachers to incorporate edible gardens into different aspects of its curriculum.

Inside Schultz’s classroom, Mason jars are lined on book shelves, each containing a large, slimy SCOBY – a symbiotic culture of bacteria used to make effervescent fermented kombucha beverage. In a hallway beside the cafeteria, an urban cultivator resembling a brightly lit refrigerator with glass doors houses rows of sprouts and microgreens.

Schultz turns each project into courses and classes in order to keep them going, and sustainable. He tries to make sure each new project can be completed with a three-year time frame – the typical span of a high-school student.

“Capture their dreams in Grade 10 and help them fulfill their dreams – make them a reality – by Grade 12,” he says. “It’s all about them – they do everything.”

This is an autogenerated summary from a published source: Dirty Hands, Happy Students