School Garden Biodiversity Day! 2015

For the past 2 years, Imagine a Garden in Every School has celebrated School Garden Day on a Friday in May. This year, the date coincides with the World Biodiversity Day called by the United Nations, May 22.

We know that School Gardens represent Biodiversity by their very nature. Some grow food; some grow native wildflowers – but all engage children and youth with our real and changing world.


To highlight the convergence of food biodiversity in this year’s celebration, USC Canada has offered a free gift to the first 20 teachers/garden educators to register their school’s garden. All participants will receive a certificate. Here’s how to participate:

  1. First register your Ontario school garden at qualify for a prize from USC Canada – Biodiverse & Beautiful Beans!
  1. On Friday, May 22, hold an activity in or around/about your school garden. It can be simple or ambitious – it’s up to you! (Biodiversity!) Send pictures of your event to

3. The TOP SIX schools with the most student engagement in the garden on that day (percentage of school population, provide pictures) will receive a $75 gift certificate for Home Hardware (or local garden supply outlet), courtesy of the Biodiversity Education and Awareness Network!

We’ll feature all pictures and school gardens on our blog as we receive them.

Thanks to our partners!

USC logo       BEANfinallogo

NOTE: If you had registered before, review your profile here and resubmit for 2015.

Twitter: @GardInSchools



USC Seed Gift


Biodiversity Education and Action Network =

What to do on School Garden Day

drumming in garden

by Megan McDonald, pre-service teacher

School Garden Day is fast approaching! Only 1 more week! Unfortunately, that also means report card season is coming up, and now is the time to squeeze in those last bits of curriculum you still need to cover. It can definitely be a challenge finding room for everything in the curriculum and a school garden often feels like an extra, that you visit if you have time. However, there are plenty of ways to integrate the school garden across the curriculum! While planting is the most obvious way to participate in school garden day (and it fits quite nicely into the Understanding Life Systems strand of the science curriculum!), it certainly isn’t the only way.

Here are some other potential ideas:

Language Arts:

  • Write a descriptive paragraph about something in the garden
  • Write a persuasive writing piece about why students should spend more time outside/why we should have a school garden
  • Write a procedural writing piece about how to care for a garden
  • Write a newspaper article about your school garden (or about school garden day?)
  • Have your silent reading period in the garden
  • Have your literature circle meetings in the garden
  • Read a story about gardens/composting/animals in the garden


  • Count the plants within your garden and create fractions, decimals, ratios based on the data collected
  • Create graphs based on the plants found in your garden
  • Conduct a survey among your class about the contents of your garden (Ex. What is your favourite plant in our garden? Do you like kale? etc.)
  • Measure the heights of different plants. Visit again next week and see how much they have grown!
  • Measure the beds in your garden and calculate the area/perimeter (and capacity if a raised bed!)
  • Calculate the capacity of various planters and determine how much soil you will need to fill them. How much will this cost?
  • Draw the garden (to scale) on grid paper
  • Find different angles, 2D and 3D shapes in the garden
  • Challenge students to create math problems for the strand you are working on based on the garden! Maybe some of these can show up on their next assessment!

The Arts

  • Create a soundscape in the garden
  • Do a drum circle in the garden
  • Sketch your favourite part of the garden
  • Create a sculpture using items found in the garden
  • Do improv in the garden (dramatic or musical!)
  • Photography in the garden
  • Create a site-specific dance that can only be performed in the garden
  • Create a dance or series of tableaux that show the passing of the seasons in the garden/life cycle of plants


These are just some of my ideas (without even touching on the more grade-specific curricula of science and social studies). Please feel free to share your own ideas in the comments!

School Garden Day Highlights – PART 2!

Welcome to the beautiful aftermath of School Garden Day, PART 2! There was just so much hard work it couldn’t be fit into a single post, or two for that matter, but I did my best.pics1

The work of students at Nellie McClung Public School, Maple, ON. They planted flowers around all their trees, made beautiful planters for main doorways and put a plant in every classroom. A huge school wide effort! Photos Provided by Doris Behar.

pics3Students at Vaughan Secondary School. Photo Supplied by Judie Pezzatta.

“For the past four years, the students and staff of the Special Education Department at Vaughan Secondary School have been maintaining an outdoor flower garden. We started with the planting of 270 yellow tulips and it has now grown to include daffodils, lilies, irises, columbine, forget me nots, geraniums and more. In the fall, we dig up our geraniums and in January of the next year, cut them back to grow many new babies.

This year, we have also started a Butterfly garden in a new area with hopes of attracting Monarch Butterflies. In early April, we started some cosmos, morning glories, nasturtiums, zinnias and marigolds from seed and on Garden Day, May 23rd, transplanted them all into our butterfly garden along with some coleus and geraniums.

Last fall, we also planted some milkweed seeds with the hope of attracting monarch butterflies to this garden […]. Our students take great pride in planting, watering and watching our flowers grow. We have no problem in getting a little dirt under our nails when we know it means watching a beautiful flower grow!”

– Judie Pezzetta of Vaughan Secondary School, Thornhill.

Giselle1Giselle3Students at Pine Grove Public School (Vaughan) planted milkweed, flowers, herbs and native plants for School Garden Day. Photos provided by Gisella Avse.

pics2Students at Dr.Roberta Bondar Public School. Photo supplied by Christina Tino.

“While our garden this year is small, I consider our first step towards putting a focus on outdoor education to be a huge success. While many students are aware that protecting our environment is important, many have not had the opportunity to experience first-hand how they are able to contribute to this worthwhile cause. Our school’s garden is one of many initiatives we hope to take on, in order to give students a better understanding of the world around them.

As the multiple exceptionalities teacher at Dr.Roberta Bondar Public School, I took Garden in Every School Day as an opportunity to provide my students with a hands on learning experience, as well as a means of providing meaningful integration in to our school community. On the first day of Spring, we planted perennial seeds, that once established, could be put into the garden. On the day of the event, my class worked with members of our grade eight leadership team to put their plants into the garden, as well as other plants that had been donated by the school community. There are also classes raising caterpillars that will be released into the garden once they have transformed into butterflies.

Since the event, students and parents can already be heard monitoring the progress of the garden and commenting on how hard the students worked to make it look the way it does. Our hope is that more students will want to get outdoors and become more active participants in our ‘greening’ project. Outdoor education is a wonderful way of raising happy, healthy children.”

– Christina Tino of Dr.Roberta Bondar Public School.

Thanks again everyone for your hard work! For tips to maintain your garden for the rest of the season, check out our resource page.



School Garden Day Highlights!

School Garden Day absolutely blew us away! We achieved our new goal of 25 participating schools, for a total of over 2000 students digging into the gardens. This day not only raises awareness about the need and demand for school gardens, but also celebrates the hard work of all the students, staff and parents who keep them running. So here is a huge THANK YOU to everyone involved for your hard work, diligence and passion. It is truly inspiring!

Mary WardGrade 11 environmental science class of Mary Ward Secondary Catholic School, Scarborough, transplanting vegetables they started in February. The garden will be maintained by student volunteers and senior citizens from the community center next door during the summer.

  • 100 students and teachers planted lettuce, tomatoes and wild flowers at Dallington Public School in North York. This brand new project includes a communal garden, children’s garden and a pollinator’s garden. The gardens are used to improve food security and educate about sustainable food systems. A beautiful project with very high involvement from students and the community!
  • “We had a great Friday with our Garden Guardians […]. We had 15 kids come have lunch by the garden and another 10 joined in to plant tomatoes, potatoes, peas, lettuce, basil, and peppers! After that we had a small class of ten first graders tour the gardens and add to it by planting carrots. We spoke to them about protecting and watching over our gardens and encouraging them to plant food at home.” – Andria Brusey of Prince of Whales Public School, Peterborough.
  • “We started a food garden last school year and have begun some big improvements for this spring/summer. With the help of a grant, we have constructed 4 beautiful raised beds made of cedar posts. Our season is shorter up here, so we can not plant our seedlings outside until the first week of June, however, we’ve been caring for them I window boxes in the classrooms since April” – Tammy Baxter, Parent at Five Mile Public School, Thunder Bay.

Tammy-ALLStudents at Five Mile Public School, Thunder Bay, are planning a salsa garden featuring tomatoes, onions, peppers, corn, cilantro. Along with a harvest soup garden and an herb garden. For School Garden Day they watered the plants they’ve started indoors and planned their transplanting as a class.

We will continue to share stories and photos as we receive them. Thank you again to those who sent them in! All participating schools can now be found on our interactive Garden Map.

School Garden Day – Exceeding Expectations

From Hamilton to Thunder Bay, schools across the province are gearing up for School Garden Day. We have reached our goal of 20 participating schools and hope to exceed it by Friday! Participants will come together this Friday, May 23rd to foster community spirit, celebrate local food systems and engage children and youth in healthy living.

There is some amazing work happening in Ontario’s classrooms and schoolyards. These creative examples may give you some inspiration for your own activity this Friday:

  • 700 students and teachers of Nellie McClung Public School in Maple, ON, will be planting flowers around all the trees, making planters and ensuring a plant is in every classroom.
  • In Hamilton, participants at St. Michael School will be planting a Pizza and Soup Themed Garden, featuring herbs and vegetables that can be used for these delicious dishes!
  • A Butterfly Garden including Milkweeds, Daisies and Black-eyed Susans will be planted at Yorkhill Elementary School in Thornhill.


School Garden at Prince of Whales Public School in Peterborough. Potatoes, broccoli and beans have been planted, with more to be added this Friday. Photo supplied by Andria Brusey.

The date is fast approaching but it’s not too late to join! Activities can be as simple or ambitious as you want, and you can register as a class or a whole school. The more the merrier! Something as little as an indoor plant is enough to qualify for participation. For more inspiration visit our resource section.

Over 1800 students, teachers and parents will participate on School Garden Day making a positive difference in their communities and across the province. Don’t forget to share any pictures of your own and register your school if you haven’t already!  #SchoolGardenDay



School Garden Day is Coming –Please share press release!!!


The “buzz” is: School Gardens Are Sprouting in Ontario

2nd Annual School Garden Day Toronto, Friday May 23rd!!!

School gardens are shooting up across Ontario, increasing students’ access to outdoor physical activities and to fresh, healthy foods. In 2013 the “Imagine A Garden In Every School” Campaign (IGES) launched a survey to learn more about what’s happening with school gardens in Ontario. Of those surveyed, 85% are using their gardens to increase healthy eating and nutrition, and 74% were started in the last 5 years.

Obesity rates among children are rising, food skills plummeting, and school-aged children, regardless of income, are not eating adequately healthy meals. The Heart and Stroke Foundation notes that 70% of children age 4-8 do not get the recommended daily serving of fruits and vegetables. The “Imagine a Garden in Every School” campaign uses gardens to not only feed children better during the school day, but to integrate food literacy into the curriculum.

For the second year, IGES is inviting schools across Ontario to participate in School Garden Day to foster community spirit, celebrate local food systems and connect children and youth to healthy living. On Friday, May 23 any class or whole school can participate — even something as simple as an indoor plant is enough to qualify for participation. All schools will receive a certificate and can share their photos by emailing them to IGES and/or using #SchoolGardenDay on Twitter.

IGES, housed in Toronto’s Green Thumbs Growing Kids, is working to link a groundswell of groups across Ontario to encourage, support, and champion a garden in every school. By doing so they create opportunities for children and youth to learn about ecosystems, experience healthy active living, practice life skills, and discover the benefits of fresh food. Through an online interactive story map, links to funding opportunities, regionally targeted tool-kits, and information about best practices, webinars, and workshops, IGES makes it easier for people to start and maintain school gardens. IGES and their partners are working with Ontario school boards as they consider and pass policies to support and encourage school gardens, often with safety considerations relating to soils and outdoor education.

Twitter: @GardInSchools, hashtag #SchoolGardenDay! For more information, visit the IGES website at or email Sunday Harrison or Cassie Scott at To contact IGES by mail send to Green Thumbs Growing Kids, 467 Parliament St., P.O. Box 82874, Toronto ON, M5A 3A3

The IGES Steering Committee is supported by EcoSource, FoodShare, Green Thumbs Growing Kids, Seeds For Change, and Ontario Agri-Food Education. Campaign members are also on the Steering Committee of the Ontario Edible Education Network housed at Sustain Ontario.

April Showers

April is finally upon us and with it (hopefully) some warmer weather. There’s a lot happening on our end! We’re gearing up for School Garden Day, which is now just under two months away, and working through the results of our School Garden survey. A huge thank you to everyone who participated! Your feedback has been truly invaluable.

Speaking of that survey, we’ve drawn our two winners of the contest! Stratford Northwestern are the lucky winners of 30 Mark Cullen Trowels, which will be put to good use by their students, and GreenUP Ecology Park in Peterborough will receive a $100 gift certificate for Urban Harvest. Congratulations!

This is Stratford Northwestern’s second year in promoting an Open School Garden in the north courtyard at the school. In the first year, five plots were designated to growing vegetables and fruit plants for their student-run kitchens. In 2013, eleven plots were converted and they are looking forward to expanding the variety of vegetables, fruits, and herbs in this location. 2013 also saw the school given a $2100 grant from the TD Friends of the Environment to expand their irrigation system to increase production.

GreenUP Ecology Park is a unique 5 acre sanctuary nestled between Beavermead Park and Ashburnham Drive in Peterborough, Ontario and has been a leader in environmental education for over 20 years. GreenUP welcomes over 1000 youth from May through October and delivers outdoor education programming, including food systems. Their food garden grows over 50 heirloom and rare species of edible and pollinator plants, which the students plant, maintain, harvest, collect seed from, and eat! This spring they have added new programming focusing on host plants for pollinators, as well as created a Blender Bike, which students can ride and blend up smoothies from fresh herbs and berries – straight from the garden! Visit to discover more resources and programs they offer.

Another exciting development is the addition of a Research page to our website. So many post secondary students and other institutions are collecting research around school gardens, and this page will act as a place for compiling and sharing that research, allowing future researchers to see what’s already been done, and to build upon it.

Our very own Becky Parker has been kind enough to share her master’s thesis Lessons of the Land: Best Practices and Suggested Experiential Activities for Teaching About Food, Agriculture and the Environment. While quite long, Becky has also created a shorter document of Best Practices that is useful for anyone wanting to incorporate experiential learning into education about food, agriculture, and the environment. The document outlines benefits, challenges, best practice suggestions, activity ideas, and useful resources for three important methods of experiential education: School Gardens, Place Based Inquiry, and Reflective Mediums.

Mélisanne Loiselle-Gascon, a recent graduate of York’s Environmental Studies program, has also offered to share her master’s thesis Nature and Community Experience in Community Gardening. Her work examines the important connection between environmental education and community gardens, and the potential of community gardens to more fully integrate environmental learning in a city setting. This is also a lengthy piece, but she has created a Community Gardening Calendar outlining suggested activities, garden tasks, and learning opportunities throughout the year. Mélisanne is now working at Fresh City Farms and runs the U FEED (Urban Farming Environmental Education Discovery) program, a one-year, hands-on program covering all aspects of urban farm production.

Be sure to take a look at both Becky’s and Mélisanne’s work. They’ve each made valuable contributions to environmental and food education and their short documents are perfect for anyone starting or currently running a school garden. And of course if you, or anyone you know, has garden research they would like to share, please feel free to contact us and we can add it to our website.

We hope you’re diving into Spring with gusto in spite of the persistent cold! It’s already shaping up to be a wonderful, productive season.

Imagining Your Garden

Given the recent blanket of snow that wrapped itself around much of southern Ontario yesterday, it’s easy to believe that Wiarton Willie was right to predict six more weeks of winter. Of course that doesn’t mean we can’t look forward to warmer weather, no matter how far away it seems. In fact, now is the perfect time to start planning your garden, whether you already have an established garden or you’re thinking of starting one in the spring. Even if you’re thinking of simply starting some indoor plants for your classroom, use some garden planning activities to banish those winter blues!

We’ve recently added a Getting Started section to our resources page, so have a look for ideas and inspiration to carry you through the rest of the winter. Ontario EcoSchools has a great resource for Greening School Grounds, and School Garden Wizard provides useful guides for designing your garden, including some examples of conceptual drawings. And be sure to take a browse through Evergreen’s resources for more activities like The Mystery Garden and School Ground Naturalization Project. If you still need inspiration, watch some of the recently added videos to see some of the great work in communities around the world!

And of course there’s still School Garden Day to look forward to! If you haven’t heard about it yet, School Garden Day is happening on Friday, May 23 in schools all across Ontario in an effort to promote community spirit, biodiversity, and local food systems. Any school can take part–whether you have an outdoor garden or some potted classroom plants–by planting something new with their classes on May 23. We’ll share your stories and photos with other schools across the province and you’ll also receive a certificate of participation to show off in your school!

Also take a look at what happened last year on School Garden Day at Castlebridge Public School in Mississauga. This year it could be your school! To participate, simply fill out the registration form (version francaise) and email it to us at agardenineveryschool[@] You can send any questions you have to that address as well, and if you have a garden already, make sure to let us know so we can add it to our map. In the meantime, stay warm and comfort yourself with visions of what your spring garden could be!