A Hidden Gem behind Salt Spring Elementary

Hidden away from the street is a great little project that has taken at least 20 years to be realized. You would only see it if you visit the middle or elementary school. On a fairly steep slope that was overgrown with gorse, blackberry, and broom, a children’s garden―appropriately called the “Hillside Garden”―is taking shape.

Mother to a kindergartner at Salt Spring Elementary and a regular with her toddler at the ELF preschool program, Robin Jenkinson coordinates the Garden Committee, comprised of parents and teachers. On Sunday, March 12, despite the grey and rain, 26 parents and children gathered to continue carving terraces into the slope.

As of January, all schools in the Gulf Islands District had food gardens, save Salt Spring Elementary and Middle Schools. Now, two gardens are underway―one in front of the school and this hidden gem. Both schools, and the ELF classroom located next to the gym in the elementary school, will use it.

It’s not just sweat and backbreaking volunteer labour going into this project. This is another heart-warming tale of collaboration here on Salt Spring Island. Numerous businesses and organizations have helped make it possible.

Country Grocer donated snacks plus soil and manure to fill the bottom bed, which has already been planted with daffodils and lavender and soon will be planted with peas from Salt Spring Seeds. The Salt Spring Island Garden Club donated $200. Windsor Plywood matched donations from the Garden Club, Island Savings and individuals to supply 4x4s for the cedar beds. Barb’s Buns supplied pastries.

Charlie’s Excavating will help carve out the terraces, and an exciting aspect of the project is the use of rammed earth technology, which will be led by Terra Firma and Sirewall Inc. Robin said that, on March 14, the official okay was given by the school’s maintenance manager for the committee to build the rammed earth beds. She added, “So, it might just really happen!”

Inspired? Bring your bundle of inspiration and community spirit to the Hillside Garden on April 22 and 23―Earth Day weekend. Anyone can come, help, and learn how to build with rammed earth.

This project will help ensure years of flowers, food production, and vital education for children. Studies have shown that gardening enhances children’s imaginations, decreases aggression, and boosts classroom performance―not to mention that gardening is a life skill.

Once complete, the garden will contain native and orchard trees, pollinator plants, and seating areas. A new sandbox was filled this past weekend. It is visible through the window of the ELF classroom so that preschoolers don’t have to go the other side of the school to play in the sand. In the future, it will be convertible to a small stage.

If you can’t come on Earth Day weekend, but you want to help this project grow, visit https://igg.me/at/ssegardens, their Indiegogo campaign where you can donate online. You can also email Principal Shelly Johnson with direct contributions: sjohnson@sd64.bc.ca

Avatar of Coreen Boucher

By Coreen Boucher

Staff Writer, Salt Spring Exchange News

March 15, 2017 1:26 PM

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