Urban agriculture projects are multiplying in schools

This text is part of the special booklet Private schools

Rooftop gardens, hydroponic greenhouses, vegetable gardens: urban agriculture projects are multiplying in primary and secondary schools in the metropolitan region. And young people have a lot to gain by getting involved in these projects.

As the pandemic hit teenagers hard, Odette Plante, a junior high school science teacher at Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes College in Longueuil, sought to set up a project to mobilize them. In addition to integrating scientific notions, she wanted her initiative to allow young people to improve their self-esteem and their stress management. This is how he came up with the idea of ​​creating a small hydroponic greenhouse in the school.

After obtaining funding from the Desjardins Foundation and the Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes College Le Chapeau Endowment Fund, the equipment was purchased, and the cuttings began last winter. Since then, many lettuces and herbs have been produced and donated to Moisson Rive-Sud, a food bank in Montérégie.

“We saw the young people develop a lot of skills, patience and thoroughness by working in the greenhouse in a bubble group, and it is also a relaxing environment for them, so this project is very positive”, observes Isabelle Marcotte, director. general of Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes college.

The creation of this greenhouse enabled the science teacher to talk to her students, in particular about vegetative propagation techniques, species classification, healthy eating, eco-responsibility and short marketing circuits. The Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes college is continuing the project this year and also wishes to add flowers to it in order to discuss flowering with the students.

Several exterior projects

If the hydroponic shoots of the Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes college are cultivated all year round, other schools wait for the summer to take their students outside to play in the earth.

For example, Beaubois college built large wooden bins – one for each elementary and secondary level – thanks to the support of the Beaubois College Foundation and the Caisse Desjardins de l’Ouest-de-l’Île. . Permaculture vegetable gardens have been set up there. This technique aims to create ecosystems that respect biodiversity and make it possible to harvest a lot of fruits and vegetables in little space. Dozens of kilos of potatoes, zucchini and tomatoes were produced and donated to charities. As part of its sustainable development plan, Beaubois College carried out this project to help train eco-citizens, talk about healthy lifestyles and establish cooperative values.

Experience shows that this type of project works both with older children in secondary education and with children in primary education. At the Notre-Dame-des-Anges boarding school, a nursery and primary school in the Mercier – Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district, a vegetable garden was created last spring on the initiative of the parents’ association, in collaboration with MicroHabitat, whose mission is to reduce food insecurity with urban agriculture. The company gave virtual workshops on planning an urban vegetable garden and its benefits. One of their farmers also came every week during the summer, in addition to parents and students, to maintain the vegetable garden and harvest.

“The children reacted really well, they take care of the vegetable and herbal plants, they can touch them, smell them”, rejoices Marie-Josée Hamel, director general of the Notre-Dame-des-Anges boarding school.

The vegetable garden will return next spring (the schoolyard will then be completely redone), and the project is set to evolve. “For example, we are thinking of giving more of our crops to community organizations or launching an entrepreneurial project,” she says. We will define the rest of the project together. “

Passionate students

In gardening, the Saint-Nom-de-Marie boarding school is a pioneer. It was in 2014 that Martine Plessis-Bélair, a French teacher, had the idea of ​​creating a garden on the roof of the building, in Outremont.

“At that time I was teaching the environment and world course, and I was responsible for the environment at school,” she explains. One of our pavilions was quite new, and it was very hot inside at the end of school and back to school. While looking for a different project, I had the idea of ​​making a roof garden to combat heat islands. “

With the expertise of the company Les Urbainculteurs, geotextile containers have been installed to grow vegetables using organic farming principles. The harvests are donated to MultiCaf, a food security organization in the Côte-des-Neiges district. Hives have also been installed by the Miel Montreal cooperative which, in addition to managing the hives, explains to students the importance of bees in pollination and the damage caused by the use of pesticides.

Volunteer engagement is part of the international education curriculum, and students rush to get their hands on the ground. “We have between 60 and 80 girls per year who take care of the garden during the summer, following a schedule in small teams,” explains the teacher. Many return year after year. They are accompanied by a volunteer teacher and a volunteer farmer, who is a retired teacher from the school.

Martine Plessis-Bélair is of the opinion that, if so many adolescent girls are involved in this project, it is because it has meaning. “They invest time in it and, in addition to seeing the vegetables grow, we see that it is an activity that helps to do good for the environment and the community. “

The project is continuing and, this year, the Saint-Nom-de-Marie boarding school received a grant from the Borough of Outremont to purchase new geotextile bins. As for the roof garden, it will have babies! In its current expansion project, which should be completed by the start of the 2022 school year, the school is planning a rooftop space for various initiatives, such as an urban agriculture laboratory.

Watch video


Leave a Comment