School Gardening in the NWT

The Cause

The Food First Foundation is a registered charity whose mission is to support nutrition education programs in schools with the goal of encouraging a healthy population of children and youth for future generations.

Food First is seeking funding to support school gardens throughout the NWT. This is a fairly new project, having only existed for the past two years, but the amount of interest that has been shown throughout the North has surpassed the amount of funding we have been able to secure every year. This school year (2017/2018), Food First was able to provide eight schools with 14 indoor gardens plus soil and seeds for their classrooms: four schools in Yellowknife, and schools in Wekweeti, Ulukhaktok, Sachs Harbour, and Tuktoyaktuk. There were additional schools who expressed interest; however due to lack of funding, we were not able to fulfill their request.

We are looking to expand our gardening program by providing more indoor gardens to schools around the North and by encouraging the expansion of existing school gardening programs. This could take the form of more indoor gardens to grow a wider variety of crops, the transplantation of the seedlings started in the indoor gardens to a raised garden bed on the school’s property outside, or even incorporation of these seedlings into a community garden. We will encourage schools to partner with local community members, such as avid gardeners and elders, to pass on knowledge about local, traditional gardening techniques and traditional uses of plants to the students.

There are multiple benefits of school gardening for students, teachers, schools, and communities which support our mission: hands-on, experiential learning opportunities, environmental stewardship and connection with nature, and the teaching of healthy lifestyle and nutrition as gardens have been shown to transform children’s food attitudes and habits, encouraging more healthful food choices.

A gardening lesson plan was developed at the onset of our gardening program and is provided to teachers receiving an indoor garden. It is specific to gardening in the North and addresses the unique challenges that the schools may face.

While each program will look different depending on resources available in the community, we would like to support schools in broadening their gardening programs and in turn, the minds of their students.

Who Will it Benefit?

Children and youth across the NWT will benefit from this program. Gardening during childhood exposes children to healthy foods and encourages healthy eating habits.

School gardening has been shown to affect academic achievement as well, by supporting student inquiry and connection with the natural world. Research has shown that students’ mental health can be improved as well, with many students reporting feeling calm, safe, relaxed, and happy while gardening.

Skills learned in the garden may be brought home as well, and keen students may encourage their families to start gardening, benefiting community members outside the student body additionally.

Teachers, schools and communities can also benefit from school gardening as gardening activities can help with student engagement and encourage a level of active learning that cannot always be achieved in the classroom. When community members get involved, school gardening can also foster ties to the community and their culture by teaching students about local and traditional gardening techniques as well as traditional uses of plants.