Local students benefit from gardening program

It was a celebration of learning, community and food.

GREEN THUMBS - Terrace Ridge Grade 3 students Bryce Burke and Ben Derowin plant potatoes in the garden at Lacombe Composite High School.

GREEN THUMBS - Terrace Ridge Grade 3 students Bryce Burke and Ben Derowin plant potatoes in the garden at Lacombe Composite High School.

It was a celebration of learning, community and food.

On June 12th, students of Lacombe’s Little Green Thumbs program held their first annual harvest celebration event at the Lacombe Composite High School. The event saw students from LCHS, Terrace Ridge Elementary School and Aspen Heights Elementary School doing a harvest, a pizza party and some planting.

Little Green Thumbs is a Kindergarten to Grade 9 program that began five years ago in Saskatchewan. It is presented in partnership with Ag for Life and a long list of other sponsors. Last year, David Sprague, CEO of Ag for Life, decided the program, which had already been operating in Edmonton for several years, needed to spread to the rest of Alberta as well.

At its base, Little Green Thumbs is all about knowing where food comes from. Sprague said many children don’t understand the journey produce makes from farm to plate and many think food simply comes from the grocery store. Little Green Thumbs exists to get children engaged in the process of making food right from the start.

“We thought that was an important connection to make,” said Sprague.

Luckily, accomplishing that is not difficult thanks to children’s willingness to learn, he added.

“Children are naturally curious and inquisitive. They’re happy to roll up their sleeves, they’re happy to get their fingers dirty, they’re happy to really dig in and make it happen. So it’s a fun program to be around but it’s also extremely educational for the children. I think it’s an experience they will remember for the rest of their lives.”

At the younger ages, the program focuses on teaching students how food grows and how the process of farm to fork begins. In the older grades, it focuses more on the science of food growth, what happens at the in-between points on that journey and open students up to think about how they might fit within that role.

At all ages in the program, it opens up an interest to future endeavours in the food industry. Whether it be as farmers, food scientists or simply educated consumers, students learn that they have a role within the food cycle.

Laurie Phillips, a teacher at Terrace Ridge, said she was interested in Little Green Thumbs as part of a bigger project to help her students reconnected with the environment, learn about where their food comes from and how they can grow their own produce. She said she liked how the program fit in with the curriculum on plant life and thought it would be a good way to bring the school community together.

As part of the program, Phillips’ students plant a classroom garden using planters and indoor plant lighting to grow their own produce. They then water, weed and care for the garden while learning more about plant life. Once the produce is harvested, it can be used in the school’s meal programs or sold for profit.

Last week’s celebration brought all the aspects of the program together. Students harvested their produce, made food from the products of their gardens, brought the community together, shared knowledge with older students at LCHS and planted more produce in the school garden that will not only produce food, but will have other beneficial qualities on the land as well.

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