For 11-year-old Emily McCausland, a day at school involves tending to her growing vegetable garden.
As a homeschool student, Emily joins her mom, Brittany, each weekday at Our Place Preschool & Childcare Centre where much of the Grade 5 student’s curriculum is focused on planting and caring for a variety of veggies.
“It’s a lot of fun learning about plants and growing them together with my mom,” Emily said, noting her favourite thing to grow are radishes because they grow quickly and she gets to eat them straight away.
This year, Emily and her mom started their indoor garden at the centre about two months ago, and are growing carrots, radishes, beets, lettuce and corn.
Children who attend pre-school at Our Place also benefit from a strong focus on the life cycles of not only plants, but critters such as caterpillars, snails, and baby chicks.
Emily said she loves to help the younger kids learn about plant life – through arts and crafts, circle time and songs – and said the pre-schoolers also have fun watching the garden grow.
“And sometimes when things are done growing, they get to taste them!” Emily said.
For Brittany, teaching life skills like gardening to her own kids as well as the ones who attend her childcare centre is something she strives to expand on each year. This year, her students have learned how to make homemade soap and lip balm, and soon the centre will bring in tadpoles for the kids to study and observe as they grow into frogs.
“A lot of parents, especially up here, that’s what they’re looking for is the real hands-on learning,” Brittany said. “And it teaches them the importance of healthy eating, and respecting what our body needs and how to take care of the earth.”
As the weather continues to warm up, Emily said she will plant in a larger garden bed outside of the centre, and the family has plans to build large raised beds behind the school as well. The McCauslands also have a “huge garden with everything you can think of” at their home in 70 Mile, meaning there is no break from the gardening work on the weekends.
“It’s a full-time job,” Brittany said.
And although it is a lot of work for both mom and daughter, they agree the benefits to the younger kids are plentiful.
“They don’t learn by sitting and doing worksheets, they learn by being hands-on and having fun,” Brittany said. “And the kids who don’t ever eat vegetables are often going to eat a whole plate of salad because they grew it all themselves.”