Happy New Year!

Happy 2015!

There’s a lot to look forward to this year, but I thought I’d do a brief recap of 2014 before jumping fully into the new year.

Where to start? 2014 was a great year! I finally got to fulfill a dream which I’d had for 20 years, of folkdancing with nearly ten thousand other dancers at the Dance Festival (or “Tantsupidu) in Estonia. Wow, what an experience! During that same trip, I was fortunate to get to visit many other friends and relatives, meet some little ones I hadn’t met before, go to a friend’s wedding… Shortly before this trip, I also became an aunt for a second time, to our wonderful little Agnes. In early 2014, I moved to my own apartment (a wee basement bachelor) in an amazing neighbourhood called The Pocket. Such a great community, and I can walk to all of the schools where I work in less than half an hour. Perfect!

But enough about my personal life – let’s move onto my school garden life. Right at the start of the year, I was asked to do a presentation at a teachers’ college environment day. I presented about connecting composting and earthworms with the curriculum. It’s a pretty cool feeling to be called on to do these types of workshops and it was fun to do. Though I was a bit disappointed that none of the teachers’ college students were willing to touch the worms. Sigh. 😉

The biggest and most exciting change for me professionally this year was starting to work at two more schools, bringing my total up to four! I have one day each week dedicated to each school, and then work from home on Fridays preparing lessons for the upcoming week. I’m at three of the schools year round, while one of them is seasonal (though there, too, I got an extra month of teaching this year). Though I’m not 100% there yet, I’m pretty close to being a full-time School Garden Educator! It’s been a few years in the making, but going from 2 schools to 4 in 2014 was a HUGE step! I’m still working at the High Park Children’s Garden and kitchen as well, mostly during school holidays. Can’t believe I’ve been there for 5 years already!

When I think back to 2014 in terms of garden lessons, the first thing that jumps to mind is “seeds”! I really enjoyed developing some new seed-themed lessons this past year, and encouraging students to get up close and personal with seeds, their shapes and sizes, the patterns on them, how they’re dispersed… And I really enjoyed taking pictures of seeds too. When I bought a new camera a couple of years ago, one of the most important things for me was that it would have a good macro setting (for super close-up photos) – easily over half of my pictures are macro shots, of seeds, vegetables, insects… Fun!

Halloween 2014 - Ms FrizzleI also fully embraced my similarities to Ms Frizzle from the Magic School Bus this Halloween. Though I feel like I just am Ms Frizzle a lot of the time and don’t need to make it a costume, I couldn’t resist really getting into it for Halloween. I’ve got a red pepper skirt made by my aunt, a veggie sweater I bough in Norway, and had a hard time deciding between my numerous fruit/veggie earrings… 🙂 Halloween was on a Friday this year, so I normally would have been at home prepping for the next week, but I couldn’t just get dressed up and sit at home. So Ms Frizzle went for a visit to Blake Street PS, the closest of my four schools. So fun! Highlight was a grade 1/2 student saying “Hey, Ms Frizzle IS real!”

I tried a few new things in the kitchen at home this past year. I made a sunchoke (aka Jerusalem artichoke, aka sunroot…) spice cake with some of the copious amounts of sunchoke harvested from the Withrow school garden. And I’ve also delved into fermenting foods (I’ve so far made sauerkraut and kimchi) and baking sourdough. Still learning, but have had some successes! Yum!


I’ve collected a few good kid-quotes throughout the year. When looking through them, it seems that the most common topics they get really excited about are tasting/eating and earthworms. No surprise, really. Some quotes are cute, some are heartwarming, some are just plain funny. Here are some of the highlights:

“I’m going to make Stone Soup for my birthday!” – grade 1/2 boy

“I wish I could take home some of this leftover Stone Soup for supper!” – grade 1 student

“Mom, I got to taste some dinosaur kale today!” – overheard in the halls

“Elin, I didn’t like those kale chips, I LOVED those kale chips!” – Kindergarten student

Kindie comments about parsley: “It tastes like cookies! It’s delicious! It’s like candy!”

“Ça c’est TROP bon!” (“This is TOO good!”) – grade 1 girl about kale and herb pesto

DSC_0819“Mon ver de terre m’aime! My earthworm LOVES me – it made itself into a heart shape!” – grade 1 student

Worm facts from Kindergarten kids: Worms like the dark, they eat banana peels, and they don’t do ballet.

“I think worms are my second favourite things after crystals.” – grade 2 girl in Garden Club

“So worms are like the opposite of us – they’re always wet and covered in dirt.” – Kindergarten student

“Thank you for teaching us that time goes quickly when you’re in Nature.” – gr 5/6 student


DSC_0570There’s a lot I’m looking forward to in 2015. The new schools where I started last winter, Dundas PS and First Nations School of Toronto (two separate schools but on the same site, so will be sharing a garden) still don’t have a garden… Creating a new garden, especially on school property, is a long process. But things are moving forward – the site has long been chosen, the soil has been tested, some containers have been ordered, and I’m looking forward to installing the containers and starting some planting this spring!

Though I’m nearly always working with people of all ages with my job, I do mostly work independently and often feel like I don’t have much in the way of colleagues who do the same work. This year, I hope/plan to connect with some other garden and food educators, especially in Toronto for ideas, troubleshooting tips, inspiration and sharing of all kinds.

I also have a few themes for which I want to find/develop some new lesson plans. I want to involve the kids, especially with the new garden, in choosing what foods get planted in the garden. It will be a relatively small garden shared by two distinct schools, so it will be an interesting challenge, but I look forward to it. I also want to use the growlight stands which each school has to do some winter growing – microgreens, sunflower and pea shoots, etc – and then make some salads with what we’ve grown. It is also the International Year of Soils as declared by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, so getting deeper into soil studies is another goal.

I was fortunate this fall to see/hear Vandana Shiva speak at an event in Toronto. She’s a wonderfully inspirational seed sovereignty, environment and agriculture activist. I’ll leave you with some inspiration from her:

“All of us who do this work get a joy in it. And that is why we last.” 


Happy growing!


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