The school garden may look like no more than a simple 20x40-foot plot of land surrounded by a tall chain-link fence, but for the children of John Muir community school, it’s a place of adventure. a laboratory of environmental science, and an ever-changing source of wonder.
“The funny thing is that when the school year starts, the children, especially the youngest ones, have no idea what this is about,” said Emily Moreland, the parent volunteer who has taken responsibility for the school garden.
“They come in and they’re stepping on plants and trying to eat things that are really not all that edible. None of it will hurt them, but they discover what really doesn’t taste good.”
As the school year goes on, the children become quite proficient at gardening, love the changing face of the garden, and the discovery of the tastes of the herbs, fruits and vegetables they grow in the communal space.
The garden at John Muir school has been around for four years, and Moreland took over the responsibility for its operation in 2017 after the initial volunteers moved on to other challenges.
“You really need to have some dedicated volunteers in order to make it work,” Moreland said.
“It’s also helpful if those volunteers have some background in gardening.”
Moreland’s own background includes a certificate in horticulture and a background operating a landscaping business. Her current cadre of volunteers has similar levels of experience and training.
John Muir’s principal Gord Johnson was effusive in his praise of the garden program.
“This garden is really the lifeblood of our school,” Johnson said.
“There are so many positives to the program. It’s a chance to be in the fresh air, to learn about sustainability, the environment, and how our food is grown.”
Johnson said that there are frequently fruit plates passed around in the school, as well as salads and other products grown in the garden.
“We’ve had french fries, yam fries, salads, all sorts of great produce and the children are so thrilled to have grown it all themselves.”
Moreland said she has often watched the children as they sample produce right out of the garden.
“One day I brought a can of whipped cream and the kindergartners picked their own strawberries. They brought them to me and I gave them a small dab of cream and they ate them like they were going out of style,” said Moreland with a chuckle.
Johnson credits the Sooke Rotary Club for their generous support and the group of volunteers that make the garden possible.
On June 2, the garden also received an extra boost as it received a $1,000 donation from the staff at the Royal Bank in Sooke.
Of course, during the summer months, the garden is a bit more problematic as the children are off on holidays, but that’s when community families volunteer to take a week at a time to tend the garden so that it’s ready when the students return in September.