By Benita Baerg
Special to the Chronicle
With the summer weather seemingly here to stay, it’s time to haul out trowels, pull on gloves and gleefully step back into the garden. No one is more excited to get their hands into the dirt than the kids in Samantha Dunlop’s grade one class at Tuc-el-Nuit Elementary School.
“It’s so fun!” said Kayden, one of the students. “I want to stay outsides all day.”
Gardening is good for kids’ brains, their bodies, and their souls. It offers an incredible, hands-on way to expand kids’ understanding of scientific concepts, the natural world, and the miracle of life. It’s proven to help develop self-confidence, self-regulation, and an understanding of everything from consequences to caring. And, aside from the obvious body and health benefits that outside time and physical activity offer, gardening gets kids in touch with soil microbes, which new research shows can decrease everything from allergies and obesity to dementia and cancer.
“Gardening creates healthier, more well-balanced students and better learning,” says Dunlop, who spearheaded and, together with husband Grant Dunlop, built Tuc-el-Nuit’s school garden four years ago.
“Gardening is earthing. People have known for generations that being in touch with the earth creates mental well-being, but we’ve moved away from being outside and being in the soil in this generation. The Ministry of Education’s new curriculum focuses on inquiry and play-based learning, so gardening fits right in there.”
Dunlop’s class is busy weeding the garden boxes. A Grade 6-7 class already has potatoes growing in one box, and a kindergarten class is days away from planting the pumpkins they’ve been nurturing indoors for the past couple weeks. Over the coming weeks, most of the rest of the school will be digging, planting, weeding . . . and dreaming about the delicious results of all their hard work.
Want to help get Tuc-el-Nuit’s school kids into the garden? Here are a couple ways:
On Wednesday, May 16th, Tuc-el-Nuit and Sunvalley Farms will be hosting a bedding plant sale from 2:00 – 5:00 p.m. in front of Tuc-el-Nuit school. Everyone is welcome! In addition to filling your own garden with excellent quality, locally grown annuals, you’ll be helping the school too: 40 per cent of every dollar spent will come back to Tuc-el-Nuit. Proceeds from the sale will be split between a Grade 7 school trip and the school garden. If you’d like to help even more directly, buy some plants at the sale and then donate them to the school garden! Tomatoes, kale and squash are top priorities.
Dunlop is also putting out a plea to Oliver gardeners to donate raspberry plants: “The kids are hoping to get to eat lots and lots of raspberries, so we need lots and lots of raspberry plants!” she says. If you have some raspberry canes you’d like to share, contact Dunlop at firstname.lastname@example.org.