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New Westminster School trustees enjoy a night-time taste of outdoor learning…

School trustees got a taste of outdoor learning during their first meeting of the year on Tuesday, September 12. The education committee meeting was hosted at École Lord Tweedsmuir with parents, teachers and guests on hand for the evening.

School Principal Sandra Cottingham and Vice-Principal Debbie Ramen welcomed trustees and shared the story of a school-wide garden project that was the highlight of the year. 

But instead of relying on a  slide presentation, everyone in the packed library meeting room joined Cottingham on a tour to see it all firsthand.

For school board chair Kelly Slade-Kerr, outdoor learning included walking across the cool damp of the school field in the dark, meandering through the garden beds, and tasting a perfect, ripe tomato on offer. It was a great chance to enjoy the fruits of a project that involved every student last year.

Cottingham and Ramen explained that students used geometry, problem-solving, math, planning and teamwork to build raised garden beds from scratch. The wider school community was consulted from the beginning and helped water the plants over the summer.

“The garden has been a goal and a dream for our teachers – who have taken on place-based outdoor learning and connected it to the curriculum,” said Ramen.

Phase 1 is now complete. Phase 2 and 3 will include a sensory plant garden, a dry river bed complete with salmon mosaics, and trees!

“It was a pretty big, complex project,” said Cottingham, who told trustees that when huge mounds of soil and bark mulch arrived on the school grounds, she knew the ‘point of no return” had arrived.

“Our students took what they had on graph paper and transposed that into reality. The outcome is amazing.”

For trustee Jonina Campbell, the garden is a perfect example of the proposed new vision for New Westminster Schools – as “a place where students love to learn.”