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Healthy Schools BC Stories

Community: Langley
School Name: James Kennedy Elementary School
School District: SD035
Health Authority: Fraser Health Authority
School Level: Elementary
Category: Positive Mental Health
Inquiry: Yes
CSH Approach: Yes
Receieved HSN Grant: Yes
Date Submitted: 18/05/2018
Haley Barton
Community Organization / Association

JKE How Does Your Garden and Smiles Grow?

Our Inquiry Question this year was: How can our school garden and Life Skills group be used as an instrument to promote overall healthy well-being in our school community? Our Inquiry Question in a statement is: We can promote mental well-being through hands-on community activities as we nurture and grow our school garden. We believe this garden is instrumental in allowing students to enjoy the great beauties of 'getting their hands dirty' to having a place to rest from the 'maddening crowds'. We will be able to start a plant from seed to see it grow to then eat the harvest. We at James Kennedy Elementary School are situated in the community of Walnut Grove in Langley, British Columbia. Our school website describes our community well: “James Kennedy is a dual track English and French Immersion School. Located in Walnut Grove, a family oriented neighbourhood, we are home to over 650 students, K-7.

The activities we did ranged from growing plants from seeds to gardening to making Soapsicles with plants from our garden. The areas of health and learning we developed were on the social and mental health aspects of learning. It was important that the children learned to work together to shape our community garden. That the students learned the value and patience of growing a plant from seed. Seeing how plants grow and how we can nurture them. The various tools and resources we used ranged from Healthy Schools resources to gardening tools to playing social board games. Our students have a wide range of needs and to be able to work with them and teach them the importance of caring for our environment was invaluable. All our learning has many strands of learning from the new revised BC Curriculum. The revised BC Curriculum emphases the importance of developing social and personal development which has been a priority for our program this year. We have students with diverse learning and learning needs, and so as the year progressed we realized that it would be valuable to invest in board games to enrich their verbal language and social skills as well.

Thank you so much for supporting us and our programming at James Kennedy Elementary School. We have been blogging about our adventures throughout the year at which highlights a variety of exciting things we have been doing. The new learning they experienced was a vast array social experience that with some adult guidance and support was a wonderful life skill for them. Overall, the students had a wonderful experience ‘doing’ life skills together. We also used the funds to contribute to our overall school community. Some other teachers were exploring purchasing bee hives to looking at different ways to transport the water for the garden. Students were empowered to know that their contribution to the garden made a difference. I did expect that this process would be such a bonding experience. The students really enjoyed that opportunities to make a ‘difference’ to our school community. It was beautiful to see the deep value and wonderful joy students had from planting flowers to making Soapsicles (handmade soap on a stick) with some of our garden plants to sharing our kitchen creations with our community. One student was quoted in saying, ‘I want to do this every year!’ and ‘How do I sign up to do this next year.’ The togetherness was inspiring and a wonderful community builder.

This year was an unforgettable year. The funds from the Healthy School’s Inquiry grant were used in such powerful ways. We used the funds to purchase gardening supplies to social games. All these were powerful tools in bringing our school community closer together. I would suggest to schools to use the funds that were bring the most enriching experiences for the community. It’s important to be creative. We decided as a team, that the mental health of students are a high priority for us. At this time of technology and busy days, we felt that investing in social board games were students are learning social skills, critical thinking and problem solving would be a valuable asset to our school. These games would allow us to give ‘quality’ time to students and have time to strengthen healthy relationships that many of these students don’t have in their lives. The deep value to listening and being fully present while playing a board game with a student provides a wonderful platform for conversations and conversing about issues that may be difficult to address eye to eye. Next year, we hope to continue to develop our gardening program and purchase more watering supplies since our water cans would often go ‘wandering’. As well, to provide more a richer opportunity for birds and wildlife in our area to enjoy our garden. Questions like, ‘Can we create a butterfly garden?’ ‘How can we get more classrooms involved in the garden?’ ‘How can our surround trees be used to educate our students?’ The questions go on and on... we are just so excited to see what the future holds.

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