Growing to learn

Colin MacLean
Published on March 12, 2014

A plate of recently harvested micro-greens sits amidst a teacher’s workshop at TOSH Tuesday. As of this week, all Island high schools have been provided with equipment to grow some basic produce and more than a dozen teachers gathered at TOSH to learn about using it. Colin MacLean/Journal Pioneer

SUMMERSIDE – P.E.I.’s history, economy and culture are all heavily steeped in the production and preparation of food; so why don’t we teach kids more about where it all comes from?

It’s a question that’s long puzzled Vicki Allen Cook.

But as of Tuesday, Allen Cook has part of an answer.

During a daylong introductory session at TOSH, the agriscience and culinary teachers from every high school on the Island took possession of two brand new prefabricated light gardens, along with all the gear they’ll need to use them. They even got a chance to see what they can cook up with the end product, thanks to some of their colleagues at Holland College.

The idea is for the agriscience and culinary teachers to go back to the their classrooms and team up.

They will show kids how food goes from being a seed to ending up as a vegetable on their plate, and all the science, math and artistry that make it happen, said Allen Cook, a curriculum specialist with the Department of Education.

Ideally, the science kids would plant seeds and learn about the process of growing food, then hand their produce over to the culinary kids who could learn about its nutritional value and how to cook it. 

“It’s really exciting,” she said.

“There’s a whole lot of advantages, actually. Students are able to take what they learn and transfer and apply what they need (to everyday life).”

This initiative was completely funded by the Department of Education as part of this year’s budget.

The idea grew out of some teacher workshops Allen Cook and colleague Roxanne Hall were in involved with last year.

They, along with Rochelle Sullivan, TOSH’s culinary teacher who had already integrated some classroom grown food into her program, pushed hard to create and integrate this seed-to-plate program.

It seemed to be a hit with the various teachers at TOSH yesterday for the demonstrations.

Kim Stephens, an agriscience teacher from Charlottetown Rural, said she was really impressed by the possibilities this new equipment creates.

“It’s very interesting; this is very doable in the classroom,” she said, gesturing to a tray of micro-greens sitting nearby.

“We talk to them about local production of food … and they can see that it can happen, even in their own house.”

Pam Whalen, a culinary teacher from Souris, said she can see her students taking ownership of a project like this one.

And maybe some of them might learn something they’d never considered before, she said.

“We could bring kids in from all kinds of different backgrounds – that might not have even seen a farmer or watched something grow.”