Summer Sets, Autumn Rises: Summer Re Cap and Back to School Reconnection

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Summer Cooking Camps, Garden Work Bees, Campers, Volunteers, Seed and Good Times

There has been a ton to reflect on in the last two months. It was the first time Sprouting Chefs was back in the gardens cooking with kids in the summer since 2010 and to be honest, I was a mix of excited and scared which are both the same feeling funny enough. Excited to be fulfilling the part of our program that answers the question of “what to do in the summer with school gardens” and scared a bit wondering if I could pull it off again.

All worthy thoughts looking back now. The camps filled up nicely with an age range of children from 7 years old to 13 years old in scattered weeks through the summer. We had access to use the Community Room at Lochdale Community School which had a lovely school garden I had planted out in the Spring of 2016 with the school. I was familiar with the space and a few of the kids too.

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A few goals of the Summer Cooking Camp: to harvest and cook with the food growing in the school garden, to highlight local seasonal ingredients available in BC, to teach at least 10 basic recipes to children that they can then use at home with their families, to instill a sense of confidence and empowerment within each child.

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From Asian Salad Rolls, Roasted Chicken (as seen in the photo above!), Pastas, Salads, Wraps and Infused Waters, we did it all plus a few more depending on the group. Also new this year was taking the groups to Whole Food to learn how to shop on a budget. The older group, 10 to 13 yr olds, learned how to either work together in groups or shop individually with only $5 each to then create a recipe when they returned to camp. It was awesome to see the final creations which included: Tomato Lentil Soup, A Crostinni Hors D’Ouerve with Chicken Sausage, Avacado and Cheese, French Toast, and a Fruit Crisp too. It was great to have a handful of new volunteers and a couple of fabulous staff to help me manage the various degrees of organized chaos. Chase Ando and Valerie Song from AVA Gardens brought in their enthusasim, energy and passion for food during the week with the older kids. We all had a blast!

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In between all the camps, Sprouting Chefs was also funded to oversee and maintain the Forest Grove School Garden during the summer.

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Bursting with life at every turn, Garden Work Bees ranged in activities from watering, harvesting both crops and seeds, planting out more crops, composting and weeding.

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Families from the school’s Garden Club, Forest Grove Alumni and a handful of volunteers from BDO, a new corporate sponsor all came out throughout the summer. Many folks ask how to care for a school garden during the summer and what has been working really well for a handful of schools Sprouting Chefs oversees is a simple volunteer schedule that gets created just before school ends. Parents from the Garden Clubs are asked to sign up for a week to water and care for the garden. In the end, only about 9 families are needed and the families feel really good about caring for the garden and helping their community.

What is needed to maintain a school garden in the summer: access to a hose and water source, someone coordinating the transition between the families usually via email, and a strong knowledge of what each garden space needs. Some of the Forest Grove Families took on more than 1 week, their dedication and commitment to the garden was that strong.

Always in the back of my mind as the summer days passed was the fact the kids in the school would be back soon and to make sure there was something for them to discover and admire about what they had planted in the spring.

Garlic was harvested in July and cured for the Fall Cooking Classes, the Labyrinth was redefined as the grass had grown in and the front garden area was thoroughly watered and weeded all ready for the kids to enjoy again.

When it comes to fall and preparing for the new school year in the garden, the biggest crop and excitement is around our tomatillos. For the past few years now, the kids at Forest Grove have been learning about preserving and then selling Roasted Tomatillo Salsa at the school’s Christmas Craft Fair. Out of the sales and interest, the students then estimate how many more new crops to plant for the following year.

Sadly, the Christmas Craft Fair is not going ahead this year so Garden Club will be creating the salsa to sell to the community  in another way; either via the Burnaby Farmer’s Market or at the upcoming Fall Community Event we are creating with the school.

The Fall Community Event will be a set of 6 in school Cooking Classes with the Intermediate students ending with a celebration where the school community and a few local community groups will come together for a lunch. Another exciting and new adventure for Sprouting Chefs as a pilot project that may become an event other schools can also create with our help.

 

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How Wayne Dyer Has Influenced Sprouting Chefs

With the passing of Wayne Dyer this week, I have felt called to speak about how his teachings have influenced what we do at Sprouting Chefs. Although we focus on garden programs in schools, a main ingredient we like to foster is the love within us and all around us. How if we truly love ourselves, each other and the planet, we are more likely to eat well, live well and foster an ongoing love for the planet.

One of the most important influences I have taken from Wayne Dyer and then tried to translate back to the children I encounter is that we are not our bodies. We are not our “stuff”, We are not our careers even. We are that which never changes. We are love. We are light. We are unique and special just being who we are. And that is enough.

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Creating a legacy, something for my children and the children of the community has been a personal mission of mine when it comes to school gardens. A place where we do not only learn about food and nature,science and math, but where we can learn about ourselves and how we can better interact with ourselves and each other.

I am definitely not the perfect parent. I don’t always say the best things in the right way. Garden Club however, gives me a chance to right things; to speak about deep truths with kindness like the virtues of Love, Forgiveness, Service, Compassion and Patience. After all, we teach what we most need to learn.

I have to learn Patience when 5 children are asking me a variety of questions at the same time.

I have learned Forgiveness when a group of children, including my own son and daughter, choose to wander away from the garden and not participate rather than help out. In the end, this is my path and not theirs. Having them help when they genuinely want to, serves us all and feels better too!

I have had to learn Compassion when a group of Grade 4 students are heartbroken over loosing their asparagus crop. In the same moment, I get to witness Gratitude when they hear about a school garden project in Maine that want to help them. We are all connected.

And I constantly learn about Service and what it means to give without expecting anything in return. Wayne Dyer says himself that “the purpose of life is to give. The purpose of life is to enrich the life of others. The measure of your life will not be in the duration of your life but measured in the donation of your life. The more you give away, the more that comes back.”  I see it all the time at Garden Club and during the Summer Work Bees with all the families and teen volunteers coming to help. I always encourage them to take a bag of veggies or herbs from the garden as a token of thanks and quite often, they turn the gifts down. Ok, maybe they don’t actually like squash or beans but I see them coming to help with open hearts and from a place of genuine giving of themselves to service their community and less of wanting anything back in return.

When asked recently why two former students of Forest Grove come to Garden Club they had this to say:

Donald, age 12 “What made me wanting to come back to garden club, was the sheer amount of things I was able to do, the people to talk to, learn more about plants and do something for the school.”

From his older sister, Jesse, age 17 who was also a former student from Forest Grove “Community involvement and the fact that I got to learn new things every time! I love how I could interact with a variety of people that I usually would not get a chance to meet at all. I also got to learn so much about gardening that I could immediately apply to my garden back home and also learn general knowledge about gardening I could tell my friends and family about too!”
There have been times when I have wanted to give up on this dream and questioned my purpose.

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Hearing Wayne speak about the lessons we learn along the way, despite the mistakes or obstacles, we need to see them as opportunities for growth shifts you away from feeling sorry for yourself “a victim” into a mindset of a student. I had the opportunity to hear him speak at an I Can Do It Conference in 2012. He was amazing. Time flew in the two hours that he spoke. How is it possible for me as a mother or teacher in life to help children get over their mistakes if I can’t get over mine? Children are always reflecting back what is deep inside of us; whether we like the reflections or not too. Even in the lowest times, it is a choice to see the light, to see the lesson and to grow from it.

A part of this journey for me has been to reflect on the various teachings of new thought leaders. Wayne Dyer has been one of the main models to look to when it comes to knowing your worth, defining who you are, creating positive affirmations and living life with intention. Children, especially in a garden setting, are wide open to these ideas. Gathering them together outside at a labyrinth or a food garden, are easy places for children to see how they can make a difference, what an “intention” really is and how to turn a negative thought into a positive affirmation. We have to have an intention before we create a garden. Although mistakes happen, we can turn the mistake or misfortune into a positive lesson as in the time when we lost our asparagus or when someone kept taking our colourful Swiss chard out of the garden.

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What has amazed me is that there have even been some students who know what the Law of Attraction is. When speaking to them about the labyrinth and what it has been for, they understand the concept almost completely because somewhere in their short lives, they have been shown or told about the Law of Attraction.  They are open to the idea that you not only attract what you want but the Law of Attraction is also about attracting what you are. I have taught the kids before walking the labyrinth that if you are in a happy mood and want to continue to be happy, walk the labyrinth to amplify this in your life. If you are sad about something but have the intention to want to let it go, you can also do this when you walk the labyrinth and have the intention to be at peace. This is why we have the various virtues posted around our garden and why we would like to finish our labyrinth project with 4 reflection stations with the words: Love, Gratitude, Peace and Forgiveness.

How blessed am I to have the opportunity at all to have these deep profound conversations with children? How blessed am I to create a wonderful outdoor teaching tool such as a school garden or walking labyrinth at a school and to bring these lessons to open minded children? Very.

What I know in my heart is that there is actually little sadness for the passing of Wayne Dyer. I know he has lived his life fully, on purpose and with so much love. He has given in complete service to the world his wisdom and thoughts. He himself has said he was not a perfect person, husband or father. “My goal is not to be better than anyone else, but to be better than I used to be.” Isn’t this what we should all strive for?

Although he is gone, so much of what he taught, a real legacy will always remain and this was his ultimate teaching anyway that life is not permanent, not perfect but ever changing. Who he was is that that never changes. Love. He is love, he gave love and I bet he is receiving an abundance of love still. Just as a garden is constantly changing, what always remains are the people who continue to care for it with love. This is my hope anyway.

Thank you Wayne for sharing your light and your love! Onwards!

The Labyrinth Project

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A couple of years ago at the start of the first Garden Club of the year, I asked the group what they wanted to do in the year ahead. I allowed them to choose a space in the school that could be something they transform by planting some seeds or making a bit more green. That was the first time I heard about the “Big Rock”. I never even really knew about this place until the group of 30 or so of the kids brought me to this space just beside the gravel field.

Of course all the kids loved it! It had this massive boulder called the “Big Rock” that the kids immediately showed me how they all ran and clammered up to sit on, it has 3 benches, a wonderful oak tree and is surround by the forest. There is even a creek near by that you can hear after the rains.

Most of the kids wanted flowers and maybe an arbor…a gate to welcome people I now remember was also part of the ideas…maybe a few more trees but mostly, lots of flowers.

The plans and ideas sat in a folder for awhile and then while searching for garden ideas to create without much of a water source (no way our hose could get to that space and rain barrels are yet to be approved by the district) I came across the idea of building a labyrinth in this beloved space.

What is a labyrinth?

A labyrinth is a path design that can be found in many forms: traced in the sand on a beach at low tide, painted on floors of cathedrals, lined with rocks in the dessert, rolled up in a canvass that can be spread out on a floor, or painted on concrete in all kinds of spaces. They are tools that people can use to find peace; a walking path of winding designs with one way in and one way out and a centre to stop and pause and reflect. Ultimately, labyrinths are mindful tools that anyone can use when faced with an issue. The idea is that instead of looking outside for answers, the person walking the labyrinth finds the answer within themselves by the time they walk out of the labyrinth.

A huge idea for a school right? In a system where kids are mostly inside the classroom learning all their subjects; except if they happen to have a garden 😉

We had no idea how to build or create a labyrinth. There are several sites on the net, a man who creates them at low tide at the beach at Spanish Banks (http://walkingalabyrinth.blogspot.ca/)  sometimes and there is a labyrinth lady too. But when it came time to write a grant, ask for funds and design this thing, Merrill my side kick parent, Al our principal and I had never really experienced anything like this before. The key thing was though, we were all willing to figure it out. Everything is figure outable after all!

2 years pass by with many design ideas out the window. We looked at paving stones, adding a slab of concrete and painting the design on, in laid concrete or rocks. They all went out the window as the main concern was to be honest, what would the kids do with the rocks or paving stones? Would they could they pick them up and throw them at each other? How can we get this approved if there is any trace of threat of injury despite the intentions of what it is “supposed” to be used for?

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Finally, after attending a summer wedding at the UBC Botanical Gardens, I came across a labyrinth there…I almost actually didn’t even see it at first because the design was in laid right into the grass.

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Finally we had a design that would work. Mind you, we had submitted a proposal with the paving stones that was approved by the District so changing it to this we felt would be even better and easier to get done. Also, the costs of crushed gravel vs paving stones was a big difference. 

A grant submission went into the Evergreen Foundation which was a group I had long wanted to become more connected to anyway as Dolores Altin and I were connected from the first time we met several years ago now. A year after that, we finally had funding to start this project.

Most labyrinth projects at schools are created by teachers who are on board first. We worked a bit backwards, getting the staff on board after funding was secured. It wasn’t a hard sell though. Here we were offering a space to use for the classes outside of the classroom; a place for teachers to bring their kids when they were facing a conflict and needing resolutions. Comments from the teachers included: “I’ll be first to line up and use it on a Monday morning!” as yes, it does seem really easy for an adult to wrap their brains around.

But what about the kids? Getting kids engaged in planting of food seemed so much easier. Would they “get” what this labyrinth thing is even?

All I could go with was what I knew of my Garden Club members and here was where a lesson in trust comes into play. You just never know what a kid already knows. When we talked about this idea to the group of kids who wanted to do something at the Big Rock, I wasn’t sure if they’d go for it. Some were definitely confused but one pair of siblings knew exactly what I was talking about. The two sisters went to a church that had a labyrinth and quickly, the older sister became my “go to” student for support. She always corrected anyone who thought a labyrinth was a maze for example: “no, a labyrinth has one way in and one way out” she would say. I also had the most memorable heart felt conversations with Anna when we talked about the idea of sand blasting our names on to the Big Rock itself.

In a conversation up to the Big Rock one day during the planning phase,Anna thought about  how great it would be to add all the names of the Garden Club members who came up with the idea for the Labyrinth. In reflection however, she said this: “The only thing with adding our names to the rock and not anyone else is that everyone else will feel left out and that’s not ok.” Instead of squashing her whole idea, I suggested we echo what we have around the garden and engrave the words of Virtues instead, those words will never change as being a part of who we are after all: Peace, Love, Compassion, Trust, Forgiveness, Service, Responsibility, Confidence, Respect, and Patience. I checked with Anna and she liked this idea.

See, this is what I love about these projects; when else would I or anyone have the chance to have this kind of conversation with a student? When else can we allow their light to shine this way? That is the intention with this space and the garden space, platforms for greater heart felt conversations. I just feel blessed to be a witness to these thoughts and so many others these kids can have.

And here we are, on Pi Day March 14, 2014, having just finished presenting the whole idea to the entire school. Standing before the large crowd of 270 (minus one class on a field trip) I found myself wanting to be a channel to my higher self and just allowed the words to flow. I wanted to explain the best way I could what the labyrinth will be, how it can help them, how it is everyone’s and that we need to respect it, how it will be a legacy piece for the Grade 7 students (let alone a  math lesson!) and then how to use it when it has been built. All eyes were on me with focus and interest and even the little K’s were for the most part, quietly listening. I included my story with Anna and watched her face light up with recognition. The virtues were mentioned and even though Olivia helped us 3 years ago, her hand still shot up with a memory of the day she painted the word “Confidence”.

We hope to have inlaid slabs of stone engraved with words like Peace, Forgiveness, Love and Gratitude that will be stations for the students to stop and reflect upon in the future as well.

Al our principal, ended the assembly the best way ever, with a slide show compilation of photos of the kids from the past year to the songs “Brave”, “Roar” and “Happy”. Of all the things we can teach our kids and this is where I resonate most with our principal, it is to be happy. I hope this labyrinth as tool for mindfulness will be used for the kids to find their own happiness within themselves.

Stay tuned for posts about our build that is set to happen on April 2, 2014 with 3 of the 12 divisions from the school, an opening ceremony in June and a mindful meditation in May with Child’s Pose, Dana Mahon