Brentwood Environmental Action Team
- Mixed Secondary School Grades
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The Brentwood Environmental Action Team (BEAT), has been committed to promoting environmental awareness and action within our school and wider community for many years. Initiatives that have already taken place this year have included waste sorting education, coastline cleanups, transporting Coho salmon blocked by a waterfall to their spawning grounds, building bird houses to support the dwindling population of Tree swallows and Violet Green Swallows at local wetland, and fun events like hikes and bonfires to allow students to appreciate the natural beauty around us on Vancouver Island.
One of our biggest projects this year, however, has been a new school gardening initiative. We have an amazing school garden space, but many students at Brentwood didn’t even know it existed. Looking to capitalize on this potential, the BEAT brought together a team of students who were excited to learn about sustainable agriculture. This group gathers when needed to discuss plans and goals for the garden, and on some Sundays we do hands-on work in the garden for an hour or two.
Why: There are so many advantages that a school garden space can bring, and we have decided to focus on 3 pillars: Community Wellness, Learning, and Food.
Community Wellness: Working in gardens has been proven to lower anxiety levels and improve mental and emotional wellbeing. Not only do we want these benefits to go to our core gardening team, but we will be providing opportunities for other students to spend time helping in the garden, as well as connecting with the local nature school to teach their elementary students about some of the principles we will be implementing. In addition, we have been working with our grounds team to develop a plan to transform a space in the middle of campus from a lawn into a herb and berry garden. This will serve as a space for students to learn and relax, as well as supplying our community with fresh herbs to Crooks Dining Hall. We hope to be producing crops by the beginning of the 2020/20201 school year.
Learning: Gardens also provide massive learning potential. The garden team has been learning about regenerative gardening techniques like permaculture principles, effective composting, and aquaponics, and are working to transfer that knowledge into the development of our garden. We have also collaborated with a local youth permaculture teacher, and she spoke to the BEAT members about regenerative lifestyle and farming; we hope to incorporate some of these techniques into our garden. A few raised beds in our garden have also been designated for science classes to conduct hands-on biological, ecological, or agricultural experiments. Other initiatives that the BEAT worked to tie into this project, was the building of 40 birdhouses and 30 mason bee homes, some of which were placed in our garden to increase pollination and bird habitat. 25 birdhouses were donated to the Somenos Marsh to encourage swallow nesting.
Food Impact: Lastly, we will be focusing on growing a high concentration of food in a relatively small area. In the past few years, we have developed a partnership with our local food-bank and been able to supply them with some food. This year however, we will take this to another level by learning from them about what fresh vegetables are most in demand, and then designing a comprehensive garden plan in which most of the food we grow goes to the foodbank to help feed families in our community.
Future Plans: On Brentwood’s Charity Work Day in April, a team of students will be working with our maintenance and grounds teams in the garden to build a deer fence around it, move compost and soil to create a large new growing area, build more raised garden beds, and instal an automatic irrigation system to keep the garden healthy throughout the summer. In early May, we will be visiting OUR EcoVillage in Shawnigan Lake to do some volunteer work in their garden, and learn about the regenerative agriculture systems there. With the three pillars of Community Wellness, Learning, and Food in mind, all under the wider focus of environmental and community wellness, we are hoping to maximize the amazing potential we have in our existing garden space, as well as expanding it!