Early Childhood Education Faculty Kathryn Petro is leading a project that will involve college staff and students teaming up with local public partners to build a community garden at Roseville Public School.
"I have always been interested in the outdoors as an under-utilized opportunity for learning for all children," says Petro.
When she became more involved in full-day kindergarten with the local school boards, Petro says it was obvious that many schools were unable to have rich outdoor spaces due to a lack of funding. She said she then approached Steve Green of the Windsor Community Garden Collective, a partnership was formed and the project emerged.
Petro says Roseville Public School is located in an area that has an average household income below the Ontario poverty line and the school is surrounded by geared-to-income housing.
"This is an area that does not have a lot of green space or vegetable gardens," explains Petro. "This garden will be used as a teaching experience for the children to teach them not only where food comes from, but also how to prepare the vegetables in different ways."
The community gardening project supports many areas of the Ontario curriculum, says Petro.
"The school garden will be a place to learn about respecting the environment and taking care of plants and animals that can be found in the garden," explains Petro. "Our idea is that the school garden is living classroom that will serve to educate not only the children and teachers of Roseville Public School, but the families and community of Windsor."
The project is now in its infancy stage and this spring will be the first seeding season for the garden.
Several St. Clair ECE Concurrent students, along with some Roseville students, have assisted Petro in creating a planter to be on display in the school to represent the start of the garden.
Roseville Principal Eileen Topliffe says she is excited and feels "extremely lucky and overjoyed" that her school was chosen to be the first school to kickoff this project.
"We know that this project is going to blossom," says Topliffe. "This is what the community needs."
Topliffe says St. Clair has always been wonderful with initiating meaningful partnerships like this and she's looking forward to working college students and staff to bring make this a reality for years to come.
"I really firmly believe that St. Clair College has a vision for what's important and I do believe that when they come out into the community and come out into the schools, they get a glimpse of what they can do," says Topliffe. "Of course we all have something in common – and that's that we have children – and so why not come together and plant the seed right within where the children are? It's a great outreach effort for our community."
What's great about this initiative is the amount of people who are able to be involved and benefit from it, explains Petro.
"St. Clair students in the Early Childhood Education program are going to be able to get involved with the project while they are on placement, Horticulture students are going to be able to complete intern hours at the site, students in Police Foundations program are going to get volunteer hours by helping with not only site installation, but also – like the Windsor Police who are also involved in this – by providing positive role models as people in authority," says Petro. "We also hope to get students from the Culinary Management program involved when we harvest fresh vegetables in preparing dishes for children an involving them in the process."
Research shows that people are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables when they take an active role in the planting and cultivation of an urban garden.
Petro says she hopes this is the first of many community gardens that will be built at schools across Windsor-Essex.
"We also hope to have enough funding to have an indoor salad garden that the children will have access to all year round," says Petro.
The project is about getting kids outside and learning to appreciate nature and what it has to offer, says Petro.
"I wanted to do something that was meaningful in the community that could provide a different learning experience for children," says Petro. "With this, they get to learn about vegetables, and most importantly, establish a connection to the earth."