Growing Gardens Connecting Schools with Nature

Growing Gardens Connecting Schools with Nature

With the new school year starting soon, we want to update you on our school gardens project, which we wrote about last May. Our goal has been to help several Toronto-area schools learn about pollinators, grow their own food and become more connected with nature. We’re pleased to say that the gardens have been growing well throughout the summer and the school communities have enjoyed this unique and rewarding experience, as you’ll see from the following photos.

The garden at Cottingham Junior Public School.  (Photo: Gina Christakis)

It’s no surprise that some of the standout garden performers have been the native plants, like lance-leaved coreopsis, black-eyed susan and swamp milkweed. These plants, which have evolved to be ideally suited to this region, brought beauty to the school yards and admiring looks from passersby. Garden visitors were also rewarded by the opportunity to observe solitary bees, bumble bees, honey bees and butterflies that were attracted to these plants.

A solitary bee visits lance-leaved coreopsis and the cheery blooms of black-eyed susan. (Photos: Nick Savva)

Garden visitors: A monarch butterfly and bumblebee forage on swamp milkweed while a leaf cutter bee lands on the hand of a gardener. (Photos: Nick Savva)

The most enjoyable activity for the school communities has often been harvesting the fruits of their labour.  Cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes, beans, swiss chard and other edibles were eagerly collected and became healthy snacks and nutritious additions to homemade meals. Tredway Woodsworth Public School had a bumper crop of zucchini…  our gratitude to the squash bees!

A proud student holds a cucumber she picked and yellow zucchini at Tredway Woodsworth PS. (Photos: Gina Christakis, Nick Savva)

Patty pan squash and a squash bee foraging on the flower of a zucchini plant. (Photos: Gina Christakis, Nick Savva)

Most importantly, these school communities have had opportunities to participate, observe and discover the intriguing and wonderful relationships between pollinators, plants, our food and the ways of nature. This is something that many children are no longer afforded, particularly those growing up in large and highly urbanized centres. Our hope is that these learnings awaken a curiosity, appreciation and lifelong passion that they will carry throughout their lives.

Smiles all around! (Photos: Gina Christakis, Nick Savva)

We want to acknowledge and thank the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation and Patagonia for sponsoring this Bee City Canada project. This work would not have been possible without their generous support.

Western Becomes First University Recognized by Bee City Canada!

Western Becomes First University Recognized by Bee City Canada!

Western University is buzzing with excitement after becoming the first university to be designated a Bee School by Bee City Canada!

Western University is a proud member of the Bee City Canada family!

The Bee City designation is given to communities, including cities, towns, First Nations, businesses and schools,  that establish and maintain healthy pollinator habitat within their boundaries. To be recognized, participants are committed to:

  • Creating, maintaining and/or improving pollinator habitat
  • Educating their community about the importance of pollinators, and
  • Celebrating pollinators during National Pollinator Week or at other times.

Bumble bee and catmint (Nepeta racemose Walker’s Low) spotted on campus.

Creating and maintaining and/or improving pollinator habitat

With over 422 acres, the Western University campus provides many opportunities for pollinator friendly spaces and plants to be integrated. Over the next 5 years, several of Western’s gardens and manicured areas will include more native plant species and plants. Along with already established pollinator friendly trees, Landscape Services has begun the process by increasing plantings of ironweed, liatris, and Joe Pye weed.

Similarly, Western’s Indigenous Studies students have created a medicinal garden on campus. The garden features many native plants sought by pollinators.

Beekeeper Rick Huismann tends to the bees.

Educating the community about the importance of pollinators

Another key component of the designation includes educating the campus community on the benefits of being bee friendly. Our Green campus is an ongoing lecture series at Western. This coming academic year, the lecture series will include a module focusing on pollinators. Participants will learn about care for native plants and enticing habitat, including creating Bee Condos.

Celebrating pollinators during International Pollinator Week

Western is hosting a Pollinator Week during the academic year, with the goal of engaging students, staff, and faculty. The week will be highlighted by a booth on campus, interactive information about pollinators and current campus initiatives, and social media updates. Participants may also sample or buy pollinator friendly products, such as Great Hall Catering’s honey, harvested from beehives on campus.

To date, Bee City Canada recognizes the participation of 19 cities, 8 businesses, and 20 schools.

Laura Pendlebury

Laura Pendlebury

This featured post was written by Laura Pendlebury, a Masters of Environment and Sustainability student from Western University. Laura wants to work with public and private enterprises to improve their current environmental practices and integrate sustainability into both short and long term operations. She can often be found outside petting other people’s dogs, discussing the fascination and critical importance of pollinators and their habitats, and encouraging anyone who will listen to reduce their waste and sort it properly.

Bee City School Garden Project Breaks Ground

Bee City School Garden Project Breaks Ground

Planting and tending to a garden teaches us many important things about nature, pollinators and where our food comes from, which is why we’re extremely excited about Bee City Canada’s School Gardens project, which kicked-off this spring.

Bee City Canada founder Shelly Candel speaks with students and teachers at North Bendale Public School. The Bee City team visited all participating schools during the winter to talk about plants, pollinators and begin the garden planning process.

This initiative, which is being generously supported by the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation and Patagonia, is bringing pollinator, herb and edible gardens to several Toronto-area schools including Tredway Woodsworth and North Bendale Public Schools in Scarborough, Valley Park Middle School and Marc Garneau Collegiate in Thorncliffe as well as Cottingham Junior Public School in Summerhill.

Students learned that an essential step of establishing a garden is creating a good design and plan.

Why Gardens? 

Through the simple task of gardening, children and communities can become more connected with nature, especially those in highly urbanized environments. looking after a garden also promotes physical activity, self-sufficiency and encourages healthier eating that includes more fruit and vegetables. In addition, there have been studies which suggest that students who are exposed to outdoor learning activities can perform better academically.

Building the Gardens 

As I write this, the first and most laborious phase of the project is taking place. Truckloads of compost, which will serve as the base for the gardens, have started arriving at the schools and the students have taken up shovels, rakes and wheelbarrows to begin shaping the planting areas.  Seed for hardier, cold-tolerant varieties of plants, like kale, swiss chard and lettuce, are being sown directly into the beds, while more tender varieties will be planted as the risk of frost passes. Several other plants have been started by the students in their classrooms. These are providing an excellent opportunity to observe the growing process up-close and will eventually find their way into the gardens.

Starting seeds.

Next Steps                                

By mid-June, all planting will be completed and focus will shift to the maintenance phase of the project, which will include tasks like watering, weeding and looking after any potential problems. Our hope is that the students will have learned a great deal through their work in the garden and, with good fortune and the right weather, can harvest, enjoy and share the fruits of their labour throughout the summer months.

We’ll “bee” updating our blog with more photos and our latest school garden news throughout the growing season so, please make sure to check back to see what’s “growing” on!

A Great Year at Bee City Canada!

A Great Year at Bee City Canada!

With the end of the year approaching, we share with you Bee City Canada’s highlights for 2017 and plans for the future.

Bee Cities from coast to coast! Eight new cities joined us, bringing our current total to 10 Bee Cities, spanning from British Columbia to New Brunswick.

Businesses are helping pollinators! Businesses and organizations, like West Queen West BIA and The Bee Shop, have partnered with us through our new Bee Business program. Also, generous support from A. Vogel and Movieposter.com helped us to continue to advocate for pollinators.

Schools are buzzing! Gardens were planted, seeds were saved and young minds at our six Bee Schools and one Bee Campus learned many important things about bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

Much Anticipation for 2018

Our plans for the new year include some exciting, new initiatives.

More Bee Communities – Keep Bee City growing by adding:

  • 10 new Bee Cities
  • 50 Bee Businesses and organizations, and
  • 20 new Bee Schools and Campuses.

New initiatives:

  • Launch a free regional native seed giveaway program for all Bee Cities and other members.
  • Establish six edible and pollinator gardens at schools.
  • Organize workshops and field trips to connect students with how food is grown.
  • Host free public webinars featuring experts on pollinators and other subjects.

Support our Work

As a charitable organization, our work depends on the generosity of our donors and sponsors. We are confident that, with your help, we can continue to support these initiatives and advocate for the protection of pollinators across Canada.

We close off by wholeheartedly thanking you, our friends across Canada and elsewhere, for your continued support and commitment to our cherished pollinators. 2018 promises to be another busy year and we look forward to it with much anticipation.

Happy holidays to you and your families!

The Bee City Canada team

Saving the Bees at Stirling Public School

Saving the Bees at Stirling Public School

Stirling Public School’s super exciting actions to save the bees.

They recently become a Bee City Canada School and their garden is already growing!

Mrs. Mossman-Cross' Grade 1 Class

At Fun Fairs selling Wildflower Seed Paper and A. Vogel Echinacea seeds, using QR codes to explain pollinator decline, Stirling has shown what a lot of love and collective effort can achieve. Seeds are the very life that bees bring us, they keep ecologies healthy and diverse.

The seed paper allows them to make their pollinator garden even more beautiful and it is perfect for sharing with others who want to help feed pollinators too.

As you can see, the students in Miss Lee-Cook’s class make habitat creation for bees and butterflies a super fun event.

Makes you want to jump out and plant a garden!

Many hands dug into the earth, and together this delightful community of students and teachers created a place of beauty and bounty.

We are so thrilled that Mrs. Mossman-Cross and her class connected us with their fellow nature lovers at Stirling P.S., we can’t wait to meet them all!

Meeting the pollinators in their garden is going to be great too! Hello Bees!

 

T’it’q’et becomes a Bee City!

T’it’q’et becomes a Bee City!

We are very excited to declare T’it’q’et First Nation, located along the Fraser River and home to the P’egp’ig’lha People, as a Bee City!

Part of the Band Council’s adoption of the resolutions included a requirement that youth members will always sit on their Bee City working group.

After their first official meeting it was decided that, in fact, the youth members would lead the team.

Their relationship to the land is of utmost importance to them, and in honour of that the P’egp’ig’lha People use organic ways of gardening and agriculture. They have declared their land pesticide free, making it part of their commitment to sharing their wisdom throughout the Bee City family.

T'it'q'et Bee City Commitee
From left to right: Matthew Davidson, Cynthia Adrian (Chair), Lakota James, and Shawn Scotchman.

T’it’q’et was put on the path of becoming a Bee City by Shawn Scotchman, the community’s Social Development Coordinator.

“Our community felt it would be a great capacity building project for our youth to take charge of this project,” Shawn told us.

He went on to say that further partnerships with 1st Lillooet Scouts and local schools are being considered .

“Our youth leaders just might influence one or both of our schools to become Bee City Canada Schools!”

What a great way to engage even more young people!

Lakota James at the Health & Science Career Fair, Hosted by Xwisten (formally Bridge River Band) and T’it’q’et Education Coordinators on March 22, 2017 in the P’egp’ig’lha Community Center. For school aged children.

The Team

Cynthia Adrian – Youth Member

Cynthia became an environmental activist in high school. “I would save every little thing. I would save boxes and baggies, because I could find a use for them. It started with recycling and reusing. I wanted to learn how to grow food, live sustainably, save the Earth, and the water. It was a couple years ago, when I learned about the bees. And I made it my mission to tell anyone who would listen, mostly the daycare children where I worked. I taught them the difference between a wasp and a bee, and how bees do not want to harm us. I watched the bees on the sunflowers all summer. I want to help our Earth. I want to learn as much as I can, and teach it to our communities. Our plants and our source of food depend on the bees. I want to help save them.”

Lakota James – Youth Member

Lakota is the committee’s Secretary and Communication person. “I am interested because I’d like to learn more about how I can help. Helping the bees will play a big roll with our environment. Last year I saw a commercial about saving the bees and I’ve wanted to do something for them since. Getting out and helping and planning projects or activities to help will bring me joy and happiness knowing I made a difference.”

Shawn Scotchman

Shawn is a big fan of pollinators and has been following the Bee City programs for some time. In addition to working with his community to initiate their transition to a Bee City, he generously offered his assistance and expertise to help Bee City develop more inclusive application and resolution documents.

Shawn Scotchman will be the group’s Treasure and Finance officer “I created a small budget to help get this project up and running.

Matthew Davidson

Mathew is a horticulturalist and will be the team’s Science and Technical Specialist. He works at Amlec Organic .

Adam Lingor

Adam is also a horticulturalist and manages the Ucwalmicw Center Society’s Organic Community Garden. He will work closely with Matthew.

Susan Napoleon

Susan is T’it’q’et’s Education Coordinator. Her specialty is Indigenous plants that have been traditionally used for food and medicine. We are excited to share her plant lists and wisdom throughout St’at’imc territory and beyond at BeeCityCanada.org

Thanks to all of you!

We are filled with gratitude to the P’egp’ig’lha for protecting and celebrating pollinators.

Welcome to the Bee City Canada family!