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Combining Nature with Nurture at Genesis Elementary
global warming and the push to ratify last year's Paris Climate Treaty remain
front and center in the news, it is increasingly evident that the path towards
a more environmentally sustainable planet begins with inspiring our children to
mature into 'green,' environmentally conscious citizens who will be accountable
to the world that they will inherit.
At Laval's Genesis Elementary School, that green ideology is not just a hollow slogan. The philosophy is being increasingly put into action. The school, which already boasts a green initiative that includes a 'paper free administration,' has recently added a lunchtime garden club to its curriculum. Genesis' principal, Lynn Neveu, said that the gardening initiative is proving to be a tremendous resource that is providing students with a tactile opportunity to learn an important life skill. "Not only does the gardening club increase our students' environmental awareness, but it also provides them with a hands-on learning approach to science and agriculture.”
Neveu explained that the gardening project was the initiative of science teacher Galina Stepanova. “Galina kept some geraniums in her classroom. She felt that they created a cheerful atmosphere and freshened up the air. The students were happy to water and maintain the plants and because they were so engaged in the activity, an idea to start a garden club was born.”
Genesis Elementary is a unique school in that it provides parents with an opportunity to be more involved with their children's education. Unlike other schools where the principal is the sole decision-maker regarding fundraising and the allocation of resources, at Genesis those determinations are made by parents and educators collectively. “So when a motion to create a garden club was presented to the committee, a vote to purchase supplies, including earth and bulbs was approved,” explains Neveu.
The garden clubs meets twice a week during the lunch period and consists primarily of children from kindergarten to grade two. "Activities include composting and seasonal work like planting bulbs in the autumn and weeding and maintenance in the spring and summer,” says Neveu.
A 2005 study by professors Carolyn W. Robinson and Jayne M. Zajicek, published in the journal Hort Technology, noted that there was a positive effect upon fifth graders who participated in similar garden clubs. In a survey answered by the students following one year of gardening, researchers detected that students in the garden club had a significant jump both in self-understanding and working constructively within groups compared to students who did not participate in the club.
When Stepanova says she detected a similar awakening in some of the students that she gardens with. “There is a kindergarten student who is habitually very shy and withdrawn. It's often difficult to coax more than a few words out of her. But as soon as we started gardening she was an entirely different child,” explains Stepanova. “She was engaged and curious. Her posture was different. She seemed more assertive, and I couldn't believe how many questions she had regarding plants and flowers!”
Stepanova elaborated on how the garden project has proven to be an engaging learning tool for all the students involved. “They like playing in the dirt, and it's easy for them to absorb information while they are doing something that they consider fun.”
“I love to plant flowers in front of the school,” says Maya Ventulieri, now in grade 3. Classmate Emma Coppola says that she really likes planting the tulips in the fall and being able to see them come to life in the spring.
“I like to know different plants!” says fellow student Adriana Azzuolo.
So the question begs to be asked, can inspiring a love for gardening in today's youth foster a green consciousness? Although the students at Genesis Elementary still have a few years to wait before they become stewards of the earth, it appears that the seed has been planted. And with just a little cultivation, perhaps an environmental consciousness will take root in those young minds and ensure a greener and cleaner tomorrow.
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