By Mamta Lulla

Students in some of the Grade 7 classes at High Park School in Stony Plain take a break when they need and soothe themselves near plants that grow in their classrooms.

One teacher at the school, Jason Wyatt, encourages hands-on learning and passes on his gardening skills to his students.

“They come up and rub the leaves when they are working on a problem and they need a quick break and smell that mint effervescing and they enjoy having something green in the classroom,” he said.

Wyatt started growing plants last year at the school when Grade 7 Science students learned about vermicomposting – which is decomposing food matter, usually, with red wigglers. The result is a rich fertiliser free of chemicals.

Wyatt along with another teacher at the school, Mark Coletta, are also introducing students to tabletop hydroponics and a tower garden which would mean growing herbs indoors without having to bring dirt into the school.

Once the tower garden and tabletop hydroponics are up and running, students will learn to grow lettuce and herbs and anything else related to their Grade 7 curriculum.

This year, Wyatt is hoping to grow about 100 pounds of Roma tomatoes – ideal for canning. Coletta, will later can the tomatoes and sell them at the annual desktop garage sale at the school. Last year, tomatoes and supplies were bought for the garage sale.

“I want to help him [Coletta] because I want to grow the tomatoes so we don’t have to buy them from the store so we are looking at canning them with our students with the herbs that we grow in the tower garden,” said Wyatt.

The money raised from the garage sale goes to a HUSA – a charity organization. According to the website, HUSA Children’s Centre HUSA (Human Sympathy Association) aims to provide opportunity and support to orphaned and vulnerable children in Kimamba, Tanzania.

The seeds from the tomatoes will be saved and more tomatoes will grow in the school garden over the summer months.

Wyatt, who is gardening with his Grade 7 Social Studies class this year, is also hoping to focus on First Nations culture.

“Grade 7 Social Studies is about Canadian history and that means we learn about First Nations and the plants they grew which European settlers had to learn to grow as well,” he said.

Keeping that focus in mind, Wyatt and his students will grow traditional medicines this year like sage and learn to grow raspberries and strawberries.

Wyatt said students can and do learn from books but learning this way is far more meaningful.

“They take ownership of it when they see a plant grow rather than reading in a book,” he said.