Monday, 8 June 2015

People Power and Transformations Underway at Thistletown this May

Community solidarity and people power delivered big news to the PACT Grow to Learn Thistletown Collegiate Schoolyard Garden this May.  The schoolyard garden is under expansion this spring, and the space has been buzzing with activity throughout the month. The school community, neighbours young and old, and friends of the garden have been behind many transformations currently underway. Big up all the volunteers and supporters whose commitment to people power have proven good things are growing at the PACT Grow to Learn Schoolyard Garden at Thistletown Collegiate.  Special thanks to the PACT Grow to Learn team (photo above) for all their hard work and help laying down cardboard and wood chip mulch to establish pathways in the new garden space. 

Plants are set out in the lawn bordering the garden according to expansion design plans prior to planting.  Edible berry bushes (including gooseberry, haskap, elderberry, raspberry, and saskatoon berry) will be planted in a semi-circular layout to help establish a special sense of space by defining a border edge and transition zone between the outdoor classroom that will be sited in shady comfort beneath the existing old trees (at left of photo), and the new vegetable beds that will be created at the far side of the berry bushes in the full sun (in background of photo).        

Permaculture fruit tree guilds are also being established along the outside perimeter near the sidewalk to delineate the new garden space and define its border edge with pedestrian traffic.  Apple and mulberry trees were carefully installed with the support of many helping hands.  Smaller shrubs, bushes, and ground cover plants will be added in the coming weeks and months using forest farming, agro-ecological, and companion planting principles and strategies to complete the fruit tree guilds.  Big respect to all the TCI student and staff volunteers from food and nutrition, math, physics, and biology classes, and special thanks to all the good people from the Braeburn Neighbourhood Place After-
School Program, who helped make all the tree planting possible.

In addition to new fruit tree and shrub installations, new garden beds were dug out for growing vegetables.  Once the grass is removed, and the soil is amended with some compost, hot crops like tomato, chile, peppers, and eggplant will be planted.  

Staff and students at Thistletown Collegiate are more excited than ever about the schoolyard garden, and the incredible and unique learning opportunities afforded by the space.  The outdoor classroom (see above) now under development has already helped evolve the garden into a much more effective resource for teaching and learning.  Visits to the Thistletown schoolyard garden from Elmlea Junior and West Humber Junior classes have been fantastic opportunities to engage students in innovative, dynamic, and authentic learning experiences, as well as to strengthen community ties amongst neighbours and neighbourhoods.  Tree stumps serve as seats and establish a talking circle within the garden where everyone has the freedom to share their own ideas and listen to the ideas of others.  For students experiencing full immersion in the schoolyard garden at Thistletown Collegiate, critically important topics of academic study related to environmental and social justice become animated, tangible, and much more relatable.          
Community solidarity and people power also delivered a powerful and transformative educational community event this May as well. The PACT Grow to Learn team was invited to participate in the Rexdale Food Access Committee's celebration of food, culture, and community at the 3rd Annual FOODIE FESTIVAL on May 29th.  Hosted by Rexdale Community Health Centre and the Albion Library, the event brought together local restaurants, food access initiatives, urban gardens, and the community to participate in gardening workshops, sample delicious food, experience live cooking demos, and enjoy live entertainment by local performers.  Big up all the TCI student volunteers who designed and prepared the Grow to Learn activity booth, big up our OISE student intern, TCI student volunteers, and friends of the Grow to Learn who helped animate the table at the big event, and big up the hundreds of visitors who stopped by to learn about PACT Grow to Learn and participate in our "GROW ORGANIC, MAKE COMPOST" challenge.  Congratulations to all the challenge winners who were able to correctly identify materials that support a healthy compost heap and materials inappropriate for backyard composting!  Challenge winners took home some fine compost prepared at the Thistletown Schoolyard Garden, along with instructions for home brewing and applying compost tea to support healthy garden plants. 



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