Thursday, 24 May 2012

The Orchard Garden team wanted to post about a course that is being offered this summer. The course is focused on the design and management of sustainable buildings, food systems and communities and is taught with educators in mind. Three of our team members took the course last year and had a great experience. James Richardson, the course instructor, has experience both as a classroom teacher and a university lecturer for over ten years. The course is precisely the kind of learning experience that would assist current or future teachers in tackling the sustainability challenge in a way that engages students' hands, head and heart and leads to real and meaningful change.

There is a 4 day intro course for those who can't make the full 14 days but both options are well-suited for current students, professional teachers or academics.  There are ten spots left, but the course generally sell out before the beginning of summer.

Registration is available here:

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

it's a jungle out there!

April always seems to be the month that we all squint at the ground and wonder if maybe, just maybe, the garden won't grow this year...  here's a reminder of what the garden looked like last April:  

and then, suddenly...  it's May.  After several days of heavy rains, the garden responds in earnest.  Except this year, it has responded doubly earnest!  
 I don't remember it being this lush and vibrant at this point in May.  Maybe it's all the mushroom manure we've added, or the garden is just happy and confidant this year- but here it is in full force.  You're a lucky duck if you're on our CSA list this year!

baby beets

bok choi in the Chinese Market Garden

self-seeded clover and calendula

chives in full bloom

gorgeous garlic!

Chinese snow & snap peas with leaves as big as my hand!

self-seeded phacelia climbing 1m up a rye stalk


and more potatoes- blues & yukon golds & lots more...

volunteer kale overwhelming the bees (at least it's one of their favourite nectar sources!)

our wild garden full of clouds and cover crops

And to juxtapose all this sensual fecundity...  check out Julia's PhD research area on the west edge of the garden:

She has meticulously created a grid with 24 "desks" and one larger teachers "desk"- planted with blue flax as a play on indoor classrooms brought outside.  Through her performative installation, Julia will explore the history of school gardens and the ways that humans engage (or not) with the land.  I fear I can't articulate her project in all its nuance and elegance, so I hope she will do a post on her progress this summer.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Alternative Practicum Closing Reflections for Alison

We learned so much from these past three weeks with Lauren & Alison's Alternative Practicum in The Orchard Garden.  We are grateful for their ongoing, thought-provoking reflections.  Here are some photos from their visits this week: 

Tupper Neighbourhood Greenway

Mural at Sir Charles Tupper Secondary School

Here is Alison's final reflection:

I’m having a hard time believing that the Orchard Garden practicum is coming to a close. As I’m typing these words, I realize that I would like this enhanced practicum to be extended by another week – which is not a common sentiment for most practicum students. Few teacher candidates receive the opportunity to explore educational practices of interest, as well as see how these practices are being implemented in various schools around the district. This enhanced practicum experience has helped reignite my hope for education growing beyond the traditional classroom setting.
I am so grateful to the many educators and students who welcomed us into their schools to share their knowledge and experiences. This week, we received a tour of the Tupper Neighbourhood Greenway, which is a collaborative project between Sir Charles Tupper Secondary School, Tupper students, the TINGA Community Group, and the City of Vancouver. The primary focus of the Greenway is to be a healing garden for students and community members after the loss of a Tupper student in 2003. The greenspace was designed to make school grounds and the community safer, and the partnership also provides the community opportunities for youth engagement and leadership activities, mentorship to the surrounding elementary schools, and events such as Community Planting Days.
Over the past three weeks, we’ve seen how various garden and greenspaces work as a connection point for community building. It’s a wonderful thing to witness, and so touching to have received invitations to become participating members in these school communities.  I am excited to continue to develop (and hopefully try out!) garden based curriculum, and I am also looking forward to working on other projects with The Orchard Garden throughout the summer – like our Pollination Workshop next Thursday!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Alternative Practicum Closing Reflections...

Lauren harvests radishes and plants bok choi in The Chinese Market Garden
This week marked the culmination of our pilot Alternative Practicum in The Orchard Garden with Lauren & Alison.  The three weeks were filled with rich discussion, weeding, digging, planting, field trips to learning gardens, and curriculum planning.  We are now in the process of synthesizing Lauren's & Alison's experiences to refine our program for future years.  It has been enormously stimulating and gratifying to work together!

Lauren helps Julia prepare the soil for Julia's site-specific, performative doctoral research... stay tuned for more!
Here is Lauren's final reflection:
I am sad to say that this is the last day of the Alternative Practicum at The Orchard Garden, UBC. This past week we were blessed with sun (and brisk winds), on our gardening days at the OG. My freckles have appeared on my nose and my wrists have been a bit sore, but both are welcomed symptoms of time spent outside, working the land while having discussions of material culture studies, agricultural practices, pollination, food, curriculum, and pedagogy. We had a chance to harvest and share some radishes from the OG which were delicious! We also had a chance to work in the green house again which is always interesting. I have become much more comfortable over the past three weeks in the outdoor space, the OG office, Agora, and the greenhouse. I believe that this is an integral part of being able to educate and communicate in an outdoor space and may only occur with lived experience and time spent in the space and with the land.
My practicum partner and I had the pleasure of riding our bikes out to Sir Tupper School this week, as well. We had the opportunity to have a tour of the Greenway and to speak with a passionate and motivated teacher who has her hands in the soil, so to speak. She showed us before pictures of the space to give us some context, and it was truly amazing to see how a space can be created that can enable the community to connect, the arts to be supported, and healthy relationships to grow. This was a truly amazing project to see and learn about.
Although next week is the start of my classes again, we are hosting a Pollination workshop on Thursday, May 17 from 3:30pm – 5:30pm which is geared toward Bed students. I will be continuing to research eco-art, material culture studies, and curricular links to art, food, and gardening in the following months and after my degree. The intersections of these areas are extremely interesting to me, both from an educational lens and from a personal artistic lens.
Thanks for reading and please come to check out the Orchard Garden!
Thank the land,
Lauren Everall.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Surrendering to dandelions...

May is the month of dandelions- going into battle with them seems futile at best...
Although not much else is growing in our garden yet, this is the time of year that we crouch down low and proudly inspect the deep folds of emerging potato leaves, and brave, half-nibbled pea sprouts.
And for all of our efforts at digging out the tenacious tap root or scything the heads before they bloom, dandelions are a reminder that we are not in charge- at least not all of the time...

- Julie Lechevsky

My science teacher said
there are no monographs
on the dandelion.
Unlike the Venus fly-trap
or Calopogon pulchellus,
it is not a plant worthy of scrutiny.

It goes on television
between the poison squirt bottles,
during commercial breakaways from Ricki Lake.

But that's how life
to my home.

where they make you do
what you don't want to do.
Moms with Uzis of reproach,
dads with their silencers.
(My parents watch me closely because I am their jewel.)

So no one knows how strong
a dandelion is inside,
how its parts stick together,
bract, involucre, pappus,
how it clings to its fragile self.

There are 188 florets in a bloom,
which might seem a peculiar number,
but there are 188,000 square feet
in the perfectly proportioned Wal-Mart,
which allows for circulation
without getting lost.

I wish I could grow like a dandelion,
from gold to thin white hair,
and be carried on a breeze
to the next yard.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Globe & Mail article champions school gardens!

Check out the latest article in The Globe and Mail laying out the learning benefits of school gardens:

This may be preaching to the choir (as most readers of this blog may already be familiar with the wonders of school gardens) but it's always nice to see it supported in mainstream media, and excellent to see Vancouver's Windermere Secondary School featured!

Alternative Practicum: Reflections from Week 2

Alison & Lauren have been busy at work planting and weeding The Orchard Garden, considering how to plan and design a school garden, visiting other learning gardens in Vancouver, and doing individual research on pollination, place-based education, garden-based curriculum, and much more!  Here are their reflections from this week:

Alison & Lauren weed our asparagus patch
Lauren's reflection:  
 Last summer four women, including myself, biked south from Vancouver, BC to
Tiajuana, Mexico. We were in search of people that had followed their ideas to live a
more creative and sustainable life. Upon my return to Vancouver, BC, I have had the
ever present feeling of nostalgia for this bike tour. I miss the people, the ideas, the risk
taking, and that oh-so-amazing feeling of earthly goodness that occurs when people are
doing what makes them happy and it aligns with, for lack of a better word, goodness.
Having the time and focus to research, converse with peers, question, plan, and search
on this alternative practicum has been nothing short of amazing. It is rare, I think, to feel
like your work is your play. By this I do not mean easy, I mean intrinsically motivated.
This week The Alternative Practicum Pair, Alison and I, brainstormed and visually
planned out our dream school gardens. I had an epiphany that learning gardens did not
merely have to be ʻby the bookʼ school gardens. Oh no, they could be spiral wheat and
rye plantings that could be used for weaving. Gardens could be planted with all of the
richest of pigment plants for natural dying in the art room. The creation of a school
garden, could in fact, mimic the creative process. It can be more than a link of PLOʼs, it
can be the curriculum. I also realized that itʼs valuable to dream, but also good to learn
the facts and possible road blocks of incorporating learning gardens and outdoor
classrooms into the curriculum.
We also had the opportunity to visit some amazing projects and learn from some
amazing folks in the field. We joined a morning grade 9 Home Economics class for an
Edible Tour of an inner-city farm with Tess, a very knowledgeable and engaging citizen of
the ʻmeaningful foodʼ club. Numerous community centered projects are run at the
organic urban farm, including CSA shares. It is a gem of land and I urge anyone who
hasnʼt visited, to do so.
We also ventured out to a secondary school in Deep Cove to see what the school
garden was like there. We experienced the positive energy of the school from the
moment we walked through the front doors. The learning garden is composed of four
raised beds and is mostly teacher lead, as far as maintenance and planning goes. A few
classes make curricular use of the garden, such as the Foods class and the Biology
class. All of the food from this garden is donated to low-income community members,
which is a wonderful way to bridge the school and the community.
Yesterday, May 3rd, we worked in the rain and mud on-site at The Orchard Garden in
good spirits. We revived the herb garden and searched for the asparagus, one of my
favourite growers. In the afternoon, we had the amazing experience of a visit to another secondary school on the east side of Vancouver.  The visit was lead by three Leadership class students. I was,
almost, speechless! The amount of student leadership, responsibility, knowledge, and
experiential learning going on was enough to get any B.Ed student excited! There is a
bike/compost pick-up program, a vermicompost, raised beds, berries, greenhouse
(student built), fish, hydrogen/nitrogen/ water closed system grower, etc! It blew my
I am amazed and I feel so lucky to have found the same excitement I found on my bike
tour to Mexico. Itʼs so energizing and encouraging to connect with dedicated, motivated,
creative, good-souled people all working on projects and ideas to make this world a
positive space for all to live.
Thank the Land,

Alison's photo of a visit to a learning garden

Alison's reflection:
What a week! Building on last week’s momentum, things really took off these past five days. Again, time is of the essence as we worked to schedule meetings for garden design, curriculum development, outdoor work and visits to several garden spaces in the city. The visits to different garden sites also seemed to build on each other in terms of structure and student/teacher engagement. We participated in a Home Economics 9 class visit to an off-site farm, where students were given an edible tour of an urban farm close to their school. Almost all of the students had seen the farm on their way to and from school, but none had actually stopped to visit or ask questions before this point. Almost all were happy to get involved in some weeding, and a few students expressed interest in volunteering- Future urban farmers in the making!
The other two visits took place on-site at each school’s location. The first garden had been developed through a teacher initiative, and was used as an instructional space on occasion by several classes. While the garden wasn’t wholly integrated into school programming, it was a positive addition to the school’s atmosphere, and can be enjoyed by all students, staff and community members who spend time in the common area. The second garden was a sight to behold - a full loop system that incorporates compost from neighboring schools. The program was developed five  years ago by a teacher interested in gardening, and it has developed into a student run initiative that has been integrated into each grade through the Leadership program.  I am so inspired to see youth stepping up and taking active roles in this project. 
I feel so fortunate for the opportunities I have been afforded through this practicum so far. My only wish would be to have more time to explore these practices. I can’t believe there’s only one week left!

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Alternative Practicum Reflections

During Alison & Lauren's 3-week Alternative Practicum in The Orchard Garden, they will be contributing reflections on their learning, activities, field trips, ideas & questions.  Here are their initial thoughts:

"After completing the standard 10 week practicum in a regular high school, the 3 week alternate practicum is a breath of fresh air – literally! Our observational visit to Landed Learning was a great reminder of how students react positively to learning in an outdoor environment that is so different from a typical classroom. Working and learning outdoors for most of this past week has been a refreshing influence on my ideas for lesson and unit plans for my teachable subjects. My plan for this practicum is to complete curriculum documents (at least one unit) for secondary subjects that incorporate gardens as learning environments. It’s also daunting to have to consider how much I can actually accomplish in 3 weeks! But I can always reassure myself that lifelong learning doesn’t have any deadlines. All in all, I am inspired to see that teaching and learning practices can take many different forms, and I am looking forward to exploring different lessons and teaching techniques in garden environments." - Alison

"Today is the first Friday of the Alternative Practicum here, at The Orchard Garden. I am loving it so far. Transitory phases are always a tad clumsy; my mind, stress levels, and physical self have all had to ‘switch gears’ this week. The past three months have been spent teaching Art 9, Art 11, and Ceramics 10 in Nelson, BC. Now, I am back in Vancouver and am experiencing a flood of ‘adult-face-time’. Conversations centered on pedagogy, curriculum, gardening, farming, food, art, and education have been in full force this week. In two words I would describe my feelings as ‘ultimate comfort’ or ‘ultimate happiness’. This first week has been filled with meetings, discussions, and emails about all of the possibilities for an alternative practicum. A few of which are signage, research, web design, ‘field trips’, workshops, newsletters, curriculum documents and resources, garden planning, plant variety selections, soil testing, community schools, Landed Learning, bees, planting seeds, mushroom manure, research, etc. So much to think about and collaborate on, but only three weeks!
Stay tuned to hear about our visits next week to some Learning Gardens and Farms…….
Thank the land,