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MANS Gardening Class Inspires Healthy Habits

What is your favourite vegetable? Could it be the earthy, vibrantly-coloured beet? The virtuous (and enduringly popular) kale? Or maybe you are partial to the more familiar comforts that green beans, broccoli, and tomatoes have to offer. Chances are, whatever your favourite vegetable may be, you would have found it growing in the 2021 Mamawi Atosketan Native School (MANS) garden. Such tasty and nutritious abundance is due to a fun and innovative new gardening class that began in April, led by high school teacher Kim Harrington.

Kim acknowledges that her class was fortunate to receive the support of teachers Russ Neilsen and Michael Willing. Both Russ and Michael worked hard tilling the land to significantly expand the demonstration plot Russ had been spearheading for some years on a smaller scale. With a $500 donation from A Better World Foundation, MANS was able to purchase a new cultivator, sprinkler, and enough shovels and rakes for all six students taking the class to work together simultaneously.

In addition, three local nurseries—Wolf’s Botanical, Evergreen Nursery and The Patio Garden—donated hundreds of dollars worth of starter plants. Besides the generous outpouring of community support, the class received an additional grant that allowed Kim to purchase new LED Grow lights for her classroom. This investment meant the cucumber, pepper, tomato and petunia plants could get a head start. Her students watched in awe as their seeds germinated and sprouted right in the classroom—learning much about growing fruits, vegetables, flowers and general gardening practices in the process.

Fortunately for the students, most of the weeding happened in the summertime, after school was over.  Kim acknowledges her parents, Lloyd and Sandra Steeves, and her husband, Curtis, for their countless hours of weeding in the summer months when students couldn’t get to the school. But when school resumed in the fall, all the students from Grade 8 to 12 were eager to assist with the harvest. 

Besides assisting with the harvest of the on-campus garden, students in the class were responsible for a large container garden of their own. “Most students chose to grow tomatoes and peppers, which we had in abundance,” notes Kim, “They were all able to take them home at the end of the year. Many of the gardening students have enjoyed the hot peppers.” One student enjoyed them so much, she even persuaded her dad to rototill a section of their yard and is anxious to plant a garden of her own. 

She is not a singular case. The enthusiasm for growing (and eating) fresh fruits and vegetables is a school-wide phenomenon.  Students in Kim's foods class have made fresh salsa and "a lot" of tomato sauce to help with the school lunch program. Other food classes are busy preparing tomato soup, butternut squash soup, and other vegetable-laden delicacies with the bounties of the garden.

“God really did help our garden,” Kim says. Ever thankful, Kim is already planning for the 2022 gardening class. “We look forward to what we can grow next year," she says, adding with a smile, "Pray for fewer weeds.”