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New outdoor garden at Maple Ridge school will provide creative learning space in September

Summer vacation officially started at noon on Thursday, June 29, for most students in the district
Kyleigh Keats’ Grade 2/3 class was involved with building the garden from beginning to end. (Special to The News)

While students across the district are looking forward to their summer vacation after being let out of school on Thursday, June 28, students at one school in Maple Ridge will have a new reason to look forward to the new school year in September.

A new outdoor garden for learning was just completed at Maple Ridge Elementary and will be used by students as an outdoor learning space where they will gain an understanding of where their food comes from, and how they can even grow food themselves at home in pots.

Teacher Kyleigh Keats was behind the new garden because she has always enjoyed gardening with her students and the former garden was 10 years old and falling apart. However, she was jolted into action after a question from one student at the school who saw lettuce growing in one of the old beds.

The student asked her if this was where Caesar salad comes from.

“They were, like, shocked,” she said, because, some children only see it in packages at the grocery store.

So, the Grade 2/3 teacher decided to apply for a grant through the Ridge Meadows Education Society in February this year and received $1,500 to put toward the new garden beds.

Then the Parent Advisory Council, (PAC), wanted to make the space into an outdoor classroom and Keats asked her class for ideas.

After looking at what other schools in the district had done, they decided they wanted to create a circular outdoor space that everyone could go to to learn and share.

Keats made a proposal to the PAC, who agreed to purchase large rocks for the garden, which were delivered to the school in May.

“They’re huge. They are about four feet long each. There’s 10 of them and they’re like granite boulders,” described Keats, noting that a machine cut the tops off of each of them so they are smooth on the top. The rocks cost $10,000.

READ ALSO: Maple Ridge Intergenerational Garden given makeover

Keats, who has 22 students in her class, said they all helped out, in addition to almost every other student at the school who helped her class at some point in time during the process.

The students removed the old garden bed and helped move soil with buckets, they raked out the soil, laid the landscaping cloth, and moved all the mulch in.

A crane operator was needed to move the rocks into the garden and her class watched that happen.

Her class built six garden beds from corrugated metal with help from the Grade 7 students at the school, installed them, filled them with dirt, and planted tomatoes, squash, different kinds of herbs, beans, and different pollinating flowers.

RELATED: Maple Ridge students give thanks with a Garden of Gratitude

Her class, she said, was involved with the entire process.

As the final step, thumbprints were taken from every student at the school and made into flowers to decorate the front of each of the garden beds.

There were 160 thumbprints in total.

“So that every student would have their mark,” she said, and when the students move on to high school, they can always return to the school and see their mark on the garden they helped build.

Keats is proud of the new garden and has noticed even members of the community sitting down in the space to enjoy its peacefulness and serenity.

She is planning to take care of the garden for the next two months while school is out, is planning to cook with her students next school year, using the produce from the garden, and in the fall make a harvest soup to celebrate Thanksgiving and share their bounty with the school.

Building it, though, was all about collaboration – younger students working with bigger students to make this big project happen, she said.

Which is what the space is intended to be used for – a natural space to be able to collaborate in.

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Colleen Flanagan

About the Author: Colleen Flanagan

Colleen Flanagan is an award-winning multimedia journalist with more than 15 years experience in the industry.
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