Each week we share a new Small Grant School Story. These stories offer a peak into the inner workings of a day at a #TEG small grant school, as well as being a repository of all the information we have gathered while working with the school.
Our third instalment has us visiting Sir Wilfred Laurier Annex School, as we learn about the Tomatosphere project and the impact it has on exposing the Annex’s students to the whole food cycle.
Sir Wilfrid Laurier Annex is located on West 65th Avenue, “a single story steel frame building constructed and opened in 1970”. With six classrooms, a library, gymnasium and a computer lab, the Annex is a small school, enrolling ~90 students from K-4 (Sir Wilfred Laurier Annex ‘About’ Page, Web).
The Annex participated in both the School Food Environment Assessment Tool (SFEAT) and Individual Eating Assessment Tool (IEAT) surveys in 2012-13, with 63 students using the IEAT tool (click here to read more about these TEGS Research Projects). It became a TEG School during 2013-14, using theirSmall Grant for garden expansion, to help make use of a new cooking bin, and to implement a school wide compost program.
Read more about Sir Wilfred Laurier Annex’s Objectives, Activities, and Outcomes & Reflections via their Project Report Poster, and take a sneak peak inside a day at the school below:
Part of the Tomatosphere project, teachers at Sir Wilfred Laurier Annex are helping their students grow tomato seeds that spent 22 months on board the International Space Station, brought back to Earth by Commander Chris Hadfield.
Laura Carle, a Grade 1 teacher at Sir Wilfred Laurier Annex, and part of the school’s ‘Small Grant Team,’ explained that participation in the Tomatosphere project is just one of the ways that the school is integrating the complete food cycle into the classroom. Students get to watch the tomatoes grow under the full spectrum lights in the classroom, while teachers can protect what they’re growing from vandalism and ensure that the food is safe for the students to eat.
Growing food, like the tomatoes from space, is just one part of the complete food cycle that Laura and her team are working to integrate into their school’s learning activities. Laura, along with ten other teachers, staff and community members, applied for a grant from Think&EatGreen@School in order to help fund the development of a cooking bin that teachers could use in their classrooms. Inspired by Project CHEF, an in-classroom cooking program that teaches students where their food comes from, skills related to food preparation and how to cook, eat, share and enjoy nutritious meals with their family and friends, Laura and her team realized that they needed a cooking bin that would hold cooking supplies for all staff to use. This was, in part, motivated by teachers bringing in their own utensils, cooking tools, and supplies every time they wanted to integrate cooking into their classroom activities. However, the other main motivation stemmed from the growing concerns over some of the students’ noticeably unhealthy eating habits. If teachers could introduce healthy food into the classroom setting, then maybe the students would learn healthier eating habits and, possibly take such skills home with them as well.
Project CHEF had originally visited Sir Wilfred Laurier Annex a few years ago, and then again in January. The school wanted to be able to sustain the framework and mindset that Chef Barb had brought into the school, without having to pay for the program each year, especially with such a small school of 80 students. Now, the school has two full cooking supplies bins, one of which was fully funded by the Think&EatGreen@School grant, and the other which was donated to the school from the Vancouver Food Bank, through Think&EatGreen@School. Both bins are accessible to any of the teachers in the school, and there is also now a small fund available that teachers can use if there are special ingredients that they need to purchase.
With Chef Barb from Project CHEF as an advisor, it looks like the staff at Sir Wilfred Laurier Annex are on the right path to creating opportunities for their students to experience elements of the complete food cycle, without having to put a burden on teachers to provide the tools to do so. It seems that tomatoes from space are just the start of amazing and creative things happening at this school.
-Words by Nicole Read, with introduction by Grace McRae-Okine, for the Think & Eat Green @ School Project. 2014.