Cultivating community the key to this class

Ballenas students learn how to cultivate more than just a garden, but rather they’re growing a whole community

Students in Mrs. Bradbury’s Cultivating a Community class recently planted the fall pumpkin patch for Tiger Lily Farm.

Ballenas Secondary School students got a taste of growing their own food, living sustainably and building connections in the community this past semester, with a new, hands-on course.

The initiative is called Cultivating a Community and was the brainchild of BSS home economics teacher Monica Bradbury.

“I wanted to blow the walls off my classroom and take the students out in to the community,” she said.

The goal of the program was to study foods from a sustainable perspective, touching on human development and family studies.

The students worked closely with the Mercer family at Tiger Lily farm, learning about animal husbandry and about working on a small farm.

They also visited Deep Bay’s biological station to learn about sustainable seafood, they learned about seed saving and benefits from a local seed company, and they explored the Shelley Road estuary to look at wild, edible plants and learn about fish habitat, among other projects.

Two important segments of the course saw students working with mentors at Family Place and Munchkinland, and other Building Learning Together initiatives, as well as building an organic garden from scratch at BSS.

“I noticed, even in this community, a disconnect with students and where their food came from, so I wanted to teach them about growing locally and organically,” said Bradbury.

Bradbury and her students put in raised beds in the school courtyard at BSS, as well as a sprinkler system.

Bradbury hopes to grow food year round in that garden and supply her home economics program with fresh produce.

The students completed journals throughout the semester and Bradbury said she got incredible feedback from them.

“They felt value in what they did and an immense sense of pride in their accomplishments,” she said.

In the fall Bradbury hopes to expand on some of her ideas, with new initiatives including adding solar panels and composts to the organic garden at the school, and looking at traditional food from an indigenous perspective.