Grow Calgary: 5,000 students in 50 days
Calgary students were afforded the opportunity en masse to learn at the urban farm, thanks to a grant from the Alberta Teachers Association.
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While scrambling over a 10-foot tall dirt hill and hauling buckets of water in the summer heat may sound like a hard day’s work, it’s been the fieldtrip of dreams to thousands of Calgary students.
Over the past 50 days, 5,000 students have gone to Grow Calgary to learn about urban farming and help tend to the growing fruits and vegetables.
Glamorgan Elementary School teacher Linda Lalonde had been pushing to get students to the farm since last September, but the mission really started moving in March. Along with her committee, she applied for, and received, a grant from the Alberta Teachers Association.
Armed with $7,990 to pay for buses, classrooms across Calgary had the option to spend a day working on the 11-acre field.
“Some kids never have the opportunity to even see a farm let along go out and plant,” said Lalonde.
“It teaches them about plant growth, but it also teaches them about citizenship, volunteerism and giving back to the community. Ultimately, the most important thing is giving back to the community.”
The volunteer-run farm has been donating fresh produce to the various social programs, including Inn From The Cold, for years. Lalonde said that the shared lesson of “how to farm” and “why to volunteer” is a valuable one for students.
“They can see where their plants are going and how they affect the city,” she said.
When Vandip Bakshi took his Grade 4 class out in early June he said his entire class was having fun, despite the hard work and the heat.
“They got to go off and explore this little farming wonderland,” he said.
“Some of the kids started talking about starting their own gardens at home. The cool thing that they’d been volunteering their time and energy the whole time, and they loved it.”
The 50 days at Grow Calgary ends on Friday, but Lalonde hopes the trips become a regular event for the coming school year. She plans on having students back out in September to harvest what they planted, and, based on the grinning faces at the farm on Wednesday, it’s likely the kids will agree.
“It’s pretty much the best field trip that I’ve ever gone on,” said 10-year-old Natalie Castaneda. “We get to water the plants and we get to have fun and make vegetables and fruits for Calgary. I want to come back.”