Students Turning Over a New Leaf

At first glance, Reynolds secondary school appears to be just another, wholly unremarkable, 1970s-era school building, but it’s an impression that belies the truly remarkable nature of the school and it’s equally outstanding students and staff.

A significant change for the school started back in 2008 when it was noted that two trees in the school’s inner courtyard were beginning to break up the asphalt that covered that space. Perhaps it was that scene of nature striving to break free of the man-made hardtop covering that surrounded it that inspired teacher Heather Coey to envision something better for the space.

“We worked with a Leadership Victoria group to get the funds needed to contract a landscaping firm to design a sustainable courtyard. The asphalt was removed and, in its place, we installed a garden featuring native species and another vegetable garden in which the students could raise plants that would later be incorporated into feeding the student body,” explained Coey.

The space also became home for a small outdoor stage upon which students could perform and entertain their peers and the community at large.

“The other day we hosted an outdoor arts evening. Our choir performed as did the school band and the jazz band. It was a very special evening in what is now a beautiful space,” said Coey.

But the real benefits of the changes in the school’s inner courtyard are rooted in the exposure and education that students get from getting their hands dirty and discovering the facts about how food is grown and what the issues are regarding food security.

“The other day, one of our students was out there and we gave her a handful of lettuce seeds. She looked at these tiny seeds and was amazed to learn that each seed had the potential to grow a full head of lettuce. It seems simple enough, but in an urban environment a lot of young people have no idea about where their food comes from,” said Coey.

The program fits in well with Coey’s flexible studies program, a program with a hands-on learning focus.

“We have students from my class and others from the Leadership Group that tend to form the core group that tends to the garden. But other students in just about every class will get involved throughout the year. It really is a community affair,” said Coey.

The bounty of the garden is put to good use as, upon being harvested, the crop is used in a weekly salad program; a program that feeds about 100 students weekly with fresh from the garden salads.

“We’ve also developed partnerships with groups like Farm to School (a provincial program) and Farm to Cafeteria (its federal equivalent). And this year we’ve actually got the funding to hire a garden educator/librarian to help us educate our students about food security, environmental issues, and healthy food systems,” said Coey.

The program has had more subtle benefits, she said, in that the students now sit out in the courtyard to eat their lunch and they can see the food growing right before their eyes. She said that the overall affect has been to increase an awareness and appreciation of the healthy food options and choices.

Saanich News Article – June 9, 2018