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.

Greenwood United Church: First Bee City Faith Community!

Greenwood United Church: First Bee City Faith Community!

We are very happy to welcome Greenwood United Church, located in Peterborough, Ontario, to our fast-growing and diverse Bee City family. Greenwood has committed to taking actions which align with Bee City’s vision of creating healthy habitats, educating the community and celebrating pollinators. For this, we are excited to welcome them as the first Bee City Faith Community in Canada!

The Greenwood congregation started focusing on pollinator conservation in 2016 by establishing a new garden on the large church property. The selected area was prepared and planted with seeds purchased from Peterborough Pollinators and seedlings started by students at a nearby high school. The garden was also equipped with a rain barrel and compost containers, highlighting the community’s desire to adopt more eco-friendly ways. The vision was to create a place where children can explore, neighbours are welcome to walk their dogs and pollinators can thrive.

Above: The hives at Greenwood.
Top: Members of the congregation ready to launch wildflower seed bombs.

Members of the church community have also been tending to a small number of hives. These were recently located on church grounds and have become a focal point for educational activities for the congregation and neighbourhood. The Greenwood community enjoys having neighbours and other community members visit and learn about pollinators. This year’s “Blessing of the Bees” event, which was held on Earth Day, drew an enthusiastic crowd. Another event is planned for the fall to celebrate the opening of the hives.

A Greenwood beekeeper inspects the hives.

Future plans include the creation of a sanctuary garden, which will provide more food and shelter for pollinators. The Greenwood community also understands that pesticides are harmful to pollinators and have committed to being pesticide-free. Furthermore, members of the congregation have canvassed the area around the church, going door-to-door to encourage neighbours to skip the chemicals.

We are grateful to Greenwood United Church for their positive actions to help our precious pollinators and spread the word about their importance! We also hope that their work will inspire their home city to join the Bee City movement and become an example that many other faith communities will choose to follow.

Find out how your faith community, business or organization can join the Bee City family.

Alexis Ocampo

Alexis Ocampo

Communications Intern at Bee City Canada

This featured post was written by Alexis Ocampo, an undergraduate student studying Environment and Development at McGill University. Alexis is interested in the fields of resource management, renewable energy and food sustainability and envisions a future where nature and human development are harmonious. She believes that those who have the power to enact positive change should, and hopes to affect such change in both corporate and non-profit capacities throughout her career. She spends her downtime enjoying the simple things – books, friends, food and conversation.

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.

Celebrating Bee Cities Kitchener and Waterloo!

Celebrating Bee Cities Kitchener and Waterloo!

Shelly Candel addresses community members during the Bee City recognition ceremony at the 2018 Kitchener-Waterloo Earth Day celebration.

Despite the chill in the air, there was a great turnout for the 2018 Kitchener-Waterloo Earth Day celebration held at Kiwanis Park in Kitchener on April 28th, 2018.

The event offered many things to interest nature lovers. Fans of birds witnessed some impressive bird of prey presentations put on by the Canadian Raptor Conservancy. The Waterloo Horticultural Society, RARE Reserve, Waterloo Region Nature and Bee City Kitchener teams were also on hand, organizing fun and educational activities, such as bird box building and native shrub and tree planting.

Left: The Canadian Raptor Conservancy’s birds of prey were a star attraction at the Earth Day celebration
Right: A young visitor playing the seed matching game at the Kitchener Bee City display table.

What was most exciting for Bee City Canada however, was that we had the honour of recognizing two new Bee Cities, Kitchener and Waterloo! During  a brief ceremony attended by members of each community, Bee City Canada’s founder Shelly Candel offered special thanks to Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic and Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky for their support and leadership in protecting pollinators! She also recognized municipal champions Joshua Shea, Natural Areas Coordinator for Kitchener and Peggy Stevens, Environmental Stewardship Coordinator for Waterloo, as well as the working group champions who volunteer their time and passion to help protect pollinators in their respective communities.

Left to right: Waterloo Bee City Working Group member Gary Brenner, Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky, Bee City Canada Director Shelly Candel, Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic.

This was Bee City Kitchener’s first public event and the booth included a seed matching game, educational information and some beautiful photos of native pollinators and plants! The City of Kitchener became Ontario’s 7th Bee City and is undertaking some exciting bee-friendly initiatives all around the city, including a 2018 project that will see eight hectares of meadow habitat restored and enhanced.

Left to right: Nicola Thomas, Kim Fellows, Nancy Dykstra and Kathy Waybrant, four of our Bee City Kitchener Working Group Members.

The City of Waterloo is the 8th Bee City in Ontario and supports native pollinators through community-based stewardship activities and environmental education. Plans for 2018 include new naturalization efforts and ongoing large scale plantings on municipal property. Learn more by visiting Waterloo’s Bee City web page.

Join the Bee City family!  Learn about our programs from cities, schools, businesses and other organizations.