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.

Wild at Heart: Wild About Wildlife and Pollinators!

Wild at Heart: Wild About Wildlife and Pollinators!

Take a moment and think about a wildlife rehabilitation centre: do images of injured turtles, sick owls, and orphaned deer fawns and racoons come to mind? Probably! How about insects and pollinators? Maybe not, but Wild at Heart is hoping to change your mind about what wildlife centres do.

Who is Wild at Heart?

Located in Lively, Ontario, Wild at Heart Wildlife Refuge Centre is a wildlife rehabilitation centre focused on providing quality veterinary care to northern Ontario’s injured, sick, and orphaned wildlife. Our goal is to release all admitted animals back into the wild, helping to ensure the health of the habitats that these animals call home. We also focus on protecting nature through our educational and outreach programming.

Child completing a turtle shell repair craft at Wild at Heart’s Pollinator Garden “Grand Opening” event, held June 24, 2017

Healthy Ecosystems for All

We also firmly believe that a healthy ecosystem means everything is healthy: people, animals, insects, vegetation, and water systems. Pollinators, like bumblebees, hummingbirds, bats, and butterflies, are critical to maintaining biodiversity by ensuring that plants can reproduce through pollination. We are very excited about our partnership with Bee City Canada through the Bee City Business Program and looking forward to working together to bring greater awareness about how individuals and communities can make positive changes to help these incredible and essential insects and animals.

Wild Lupin found in Wild at Heart’s pollinator garden being pollinated by solitary wild bee.

Pollinator Garden Celebration

In June 2017, Wild at Heart celebrated the “Grand Opening” of our pollinator garden during National Pollinator Week, thanks to a grant from BEAN. The event, which drew families and others from nearby communities, featured an expert gardener, tomato and milkweed plant giveaways, and fun activities for all. Our guests learned about the native plants in our garden, as well as healthy gardening practices, like using a rain barrel, compost, natural mulch, and weeding techniques. We were very pleased by the positive comments from our visitors, and since this event, our new garden had been recognized through the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s Backyard Habitat Certification program!

Road sign for Wild at Heart’s pollinator garden “Grand Opening” event, held June 24, 2017.

Watering our pollinator garden with water collected in our rain barrel.

Get Involved and Learn with Wild at Heart!

We invite you to join one of Wild at Heart’s education workshops, which are available for classrooms, seniors’ and community groups, and birthday celebrations. Check out http://wahrefugecentre.org for more information.

Don’t live in Sudbury? You can support Wild at Heart by purchasing a yearly membership, or symbolically adopting an animal, like a moose, snowy owl, Blanding’s turtle, or red fox.

Connect with Wild at Heart:

Website: http://wahrefugecentre.org
Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter: @WAHRefugeCentre
YouTube: @babooshka152

Monica Seidel

Monica Seidel

This featured post was written by Monica Seidel, an Environmental Science graduate from Queen’s University who began working at Wild at Heart after completing their volunteer animal care internship. She has a passion for creating online educational content, and empowering children to learn about wildlife and the environment, and how they can make a positive, and often local, impact.

Pollinators Thrive on David’s Farm

Pollinators Thrive on David’s Farm

David Ainslie is a passionate advocate for pollinators who has worked tirelessly since the early 1980s to promote conservation and increase biodiversity on his 300-acre farm located near Leamington, Ontario.

His vision is for a place where farming and nature, with all of its beautiful, living organisms, can co-exist and he believes that maintaining diverse and resilient ecosystems is critical to achieving this objective. David was an early adopter to conservation farming techniques, such as no-till cropping. His farm also features ponds, pollinator meadows and wind breaks that have been enhanced with plants, such as lupines, bergamot and other native varieties, increasing habitat for pollinators and promoting greater biological diversity. Another feature is a relatively intact, 30-acre, Carolinian woodlot, which he has enriched with plantings of native trees, shrubs and flowering plants. Altogether, David has set aside about 15% of his property as natural areas which, through his conservation efforts and time, have become diverse and ecologically-rich landscapes where birds, bees, butterflies and other creatures can thrive.

Bergamot and lupines.

This farm follows a different model than most modern day farms yet, it succeeds in showing what is possible when the determination to create something better exists. David’s work has been recognized by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, which awarded him the prestigious Farmer-Rancher Pollinator Conservation Award for 2015.

Blood rood and red trillium.

David’s story provides an opportunity to consider how each of us can help to foster positive change in nature. We, too, can be stewards of the land, whether this be the areas around our homes, the school yards where our children play or the public spaces in our cities. Safeguarding our precious and wonderful natural world is a responsibility that we all share.

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!