Cooperative Composters

Green Buddies

Yarrow Community School
  • Mixed Primary School Grades
Photo Essay (3–10 images)

Community Coach(es): 

Sally Lum

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Our Community School Coordinator, Sally Lum, and a parent, Molly Armstrong, were a major supporter of our school starting a garden. This will be our fourth school year with the School Garden--"The Sunny Spot". We were fortunate to have many parents interested in eating and buying local, as well as reducing waste. Our PAC has been very supportive in keeping our garden going, however it would not have happened without the skillful Grant Application writing of Sally and Molly.

The grants allowed us to pay for a garden support person to meet with students and teachers several times over the school year. We were happy that Molly was able to fulfill this role. This teacher and student education was an important part of getting our school garden started. After all, teachers are trained in growing young minds --not growing vegetables.

We were blessed to have many generous families donate their time and expertise in order to build our garden shed and our seven u-shaped garden beds.

For our school composting, our students go to each classroom and replace a filled re-purposed ice-cream bucket that they decorated with Sharpies, with a clean bucket until the next pick-up/ bucket switch.
The students dump the compost into larger containers and wash out their designated bucket to air dry for the next compost pick up. With the students help I dump the larger buckets into the compost bins. The students used to just run their own bucket down to the bin and wash it but this became problematic as it can be difficult for my Grade 2's to dump the contents successfully into the large rotating compost bins (as I found out last year after having to pick up a lot of spilled compost!) We don't want to bring rats around and have complaints about the compost bins so we make sure to only put in fruit and vegetable scraps.

Once our rotating compost buckets were full we decided to empty them into the garden beds. The students did this with a wheel barrow, tools and gloves which we purchased with support from our Community School Coordinator and school budget and our PAC. The first 2 years we had a few volunteer plants which we liked (sunflowers and pumpkins). However, this past year we tried to plant a pollinator garden with only wildflowers and these heartier vegetables took over. Now that we are able to recognize the different leaves in the beginning sprouts we will be able to transplant these volunteers, so they don't push out our intended harvests!

As you can imagine transferring 2 rotating compost bins to a wheel barrow and then transferring this 'new soil' to the garden beds and mixing it up took a few "science blocks". The younger students tend to stick with something for about 15 minutes and then some of them require a new focus. I always try to have the students' science journals outside with us in order for students to capture their experience and wonderings in the moment.

More recently we have been able to access funds through a School District Aboriginal Education Grant to buy native plants (raspberries, salmonberries, soapberries, woods' rose) and creates signage for a new section of the garden (This is still in process and we haven't generated a name for the space yet.) With this section of the garden we want to teach the students about "our place" in Yarrow (our school is actually located on what used to be the bottom of Sumas Lake--known as Semath Lake in Halq'emeylem). What has happened here? What role did this place play in local Indigenous communities? What would happen if the Barrowtown Pump station stopped working and this space became a natural lake again?

Once again this is a process that I am learning about with the students.