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.