Last week, Queen Elizabeth Elementary hosted its third annual harvest party. On a sunny Thursday, dozens of eager students poured into the school's courtyard to sample a wide assortment of garden variety treats. The students were entertained by a wandering minstrel musician singing improvisational vegetable songs.
There were half a dozen stations circling the courtyard, each staffed by parent and teacher volunteers and hawking fresh greens, home-baked focaccia breads, rosemary and garlic roasted potatoes, fresh lemonade smoothies, spinach and arugula hummus and fresh blueberry muffins and cobbler for dessert.
"This year we will feed about 300 students," says QE teacher Natasha Tousaw. "This Harvest Festival is an incredible opportunity for our school community to come together and celebrate all our hard work on the garden by enjoying some delicious food in the sun."
The impressive bounty had its roots in the dozens of plant boxes scattered around the school. Over the past three years, students, parents and staff at Queen Elizabeth have transformed the grounds into an edible schoolyard. Under the leadership of Tousaw, the guidance of SPEC (Society Promoting Environmental Conservation) and the woodworking know-how of Tupper teacher Russ Evans, the school community has built nine raised cedar garden boxes and grown tons of organic vegetables. On the west side of the school grounds, the school also boasts a mini-fruit orchard, which includes five semi-dwarf apple trees, two semi-dwarf plum tree, a kiwi tree, two grape vines, two big raspberry patches, 14 blueberry bushes, and several large strawberry patches with a lovely little path in between. At the end of the orchard lay a three tier composting system which had helped the school divert approximately 200 kg from landfills after Queen Elizabeth started a school-wide composting program.
Tousaw is quick to credit the school community, SPEC, Evans and his Tupper students and a number of key partners for their contributions in creating and maintaining the garden. The whole garden got its start with contributions from the Toyota Evergreen Learning Grounds, Think and Eat Green at School, TD Friends of the Environment and the City of Vancouver City Greening Grant. Over the past three years, she's managed to raise $10,000 for the garden project. It's easy to see the dividends (both educationally and food-wise) that these grants have paid.
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