The Harbour School

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Organic Learning Opportunities

  • 2021
  • Teachers
Natalie Mierczak, THS Primary and Middle School Vice Principal

From little beginnings, big things grow! It was with much excitement, hard work and joy when we unveiled the THS Learning Garden on the rooftop of the Grove in September. 

From the get-go, we had so much more in mind than simply growing a patch of green on our rooftop and ticking the environmental checkbox. We want the Learning Garden to be a facility that would benefit our entire community.  The process began last year when faculty members signed on to be part of a core Learning Garden team. Enabled by funding from the invaluable school PTA, our team hosted both Rooftop Republic, and Kyle Wagner of Transform Educational Consulting who led the Project Based Learning (PBL) component of our Learning Garden workshops. We are honored to be the first school in Hong Kong to work within this new model with Rooftop Republic in conjunction with a strong school-based team that oversees curricular integration from a grassroots level. 

Cultivating a garden teaches our school community but especially our students, about fresh produce and nutritional value, and to make better food choices. In addition, there are innumerable lessons and experiences that tending a garden provides. The practice of gardening can be used to supplement lessons in a wide variety of academic subjects and using an interdisciplinary approach. Learning about soil properties? Learning Garden! Learning about cells and biology? Learning Garden! There are so many wonderful pairings to give greater depth to the concepts being learned. 

The Learning Garden is also a great way to integrate hands-on, real-world learning experiences. By integrating urban farming into our city lifestyle, we help to shape a healthier future for people and our planet - what a great message to send about what we value. 

Garden Advocates:
While the Learning Garden plans are in force to add a new dimension to student learning, the committee themselves have already illustrated the opportunities this form of learning has to offer. Let us count the ways.

1. Teamwork:
On our first planting day, the team came together buzzing with excitement and enthusiasm of the possibility of transformation. We were met with a dreadfully hot day, and bags upon bags of manure and soil to transport all the way up to the roof. Luckily, we were assisted by three wonderful parent volunteers whom we are sure regretted their decision to help. We were very grateful for their help. 

2. Endurance and grit:
After much toiling and sweating in 36 degrees Celsius heat, we managed to plant shiso, chilli, radishes, basil, tomatoes, bok choy, broccoli, swiss chard and marigolds. Our little seedlings were left to hatch, protected by mulch, fertiliser and an irrigation system. It was hard work but very rewarding.

3. Dealing with the unexpected and resilience:
Two typhoons struck within the space of a week! What a lesson in resilience and perseverance! Some produce was completely wiped out and a drainage system “unplugged”. Devastating as it was, the team did not give up because we truly believe in the value of the Learning Garden. Instead, we cleaned up, and carried on with greater investment than ever to drive forward our initiative.

4. Important life skills and values:
While there was already a great deal of work achieved by the committee in setting up the Learning Garden, the work continues and our hard working and committed team members are meeting twice a month as we continue to work on schoolwide programs to reap the benefits of our garden. Our ultimate goal is to introduce students and faculty to the joys of urban farming while cultivating a greater awareness of sustainable living practices alongside empowering our community to grow delicious and nutritious food.

While these Learning Garden experiences are not necessarily a “new phenomenon” or unique, we think that the easy access to the Learning Garden and the ability to watch its evolution will benefit our students immensely. Not only can we utilise the space for skills and conceptual learning, but “Garden learning is about risk-taking; it is about going beyond the norms and comforts of the traditional classroom to engage students” (Regenerative Hope: Pedagogy of Action and Agency in Learning Gardens, Williams, pg. 13). 

Just one term has passed and we’ve already achieved so much:

  • Whole school tours to introduce students to the Learning Garden in September
  • Curricula integration for Junior Grade 1 through Maintenance Mondays: Pruning and Composting
  • Re-soiling the seven planters that were destroyed in the typhoon with Middle School students as part of their upcoming Science unit
  • Planting of new seedlings (lettuces, onions, cabbages and radishes) with Grade 2 to replace the harvests we lost in the typhoon - Food Chains and Food Webs
  • THS Learning Garden Icon Design Winner
  • The Sprouts Docent Program Icon Design Winner
  • Determining a Learning Garden Mission: Through the pursuit of edible education, our learning garden will nurture wonderment in our students who will become aspirational stewards of organic food and sustainability systems. The organic farm will nurture a school community of active changemakers to make healthy and sustainable lifestyle choices whilst building community connections.

In Term 2 , we will continue to roll out more programs and integration through the following:

  • The Sprouts Docent program 
  • Garden to Table School Extension Activity (S.E.A) course for students in Junior Grade 1 to Grade 3
  • Grade 4 Soil Science classes
  • Middle School Science class - The Unit of Life (Cell & Plant Biology)
  • Middle School Social Studies class - Alternate Food Systems

We are thrilled by the progress, opportunities and possibilities that await, and look forward to updating you throughout the year of our achievements. Don’t forget to check out our monthly updates on the Parent Dock

Junior Grade 1 students learning how to plant chrysanthemum seeds.

 

As part of their unit on cell and plant biology, Middle School students helped to repot the soil in the Learning Gardens' new planters to ensure adequate drainage after the typhoons hit. 

 

The Learning Garden committee team on Farm Launch day in September 2021.

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