On a sunny morning behind Harvest Food Bank, the air is filled with the sounds of shovels scraping earth, excited chatter, and laughter. This is the day that students and staff from the Eke Me-Xi Learning Centre come to prepare Harvest’s garden for a future growing season.
It’s all part of the school’s ‘Learning on the Land’ program. “Every Wednesday, we are committed to taking our students outside where we’re doing curriculum connections with English, Science and First Nations studies”, said Leah Hubbard, a teacher at Eke Me-Xi.
As a public school hosted by the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nations, Eke Me-Xi is an alternative school that’s fairly unique in BC. Since opening in 1997, its smaller classroom size and integration of varied subjects has provided students with a different kind of learning experience.
Once staff heard that Harvest could use help with their garden, they felt that it would be a good fit for the school’s outdoor program. “Harvest is instrumental to us being able to feed our students every week and they needed help with their garden. So we thought we could tie it in with our outdoor learning”, Hubbard said.
“We are perennially short of volunteers for the garden, so it was a welcome suggestion from them”, said Andy Cornell, manager of the food bank.
He can also see the benefit to Eke Me-Xi’s students. “In this day and age when everything comes out of plastic packaging from the grocery store, it’s not a bad thing for them to learn where it comes from and the work that goes into growing it.”
With the ‘Learning on the Land’ program, staff have the opportunity to bring the traditional classroom experience to the outdoors. “Right now we’re looking at the carbon cycle in Science, so we’re able to link it to how plants and soil and gardening positively contribute to the carbon cycle and we’re also able to help people in Port Hardy with sustainable food”, Hubbard explains.
“I like that one of my students understood the concept between what grows under the ground and what grows on top of it”, says educational assistant Paul Corsi. “We’ve breached Biology 101, right? Roots exist below the ground and the green exists above the ground.”
When asked what he likes best about the program, Corsi replied: “I like it personally because we’re outside in the weather, we’re physically active and we’re doing something productive.”
“To me, this is healthy learning.”
– Travis Wilson story, volunteer at Harvest Food Bank.