In some communities, barriers like short growing seasons or high transportation costs can limit access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Power Full Kids Future Growers is helping to address these issues by empowering students to use innovative growing techniques to nourish themselves and their community – experiencing the power of harvesting food they’ve grown, and cooking together with the people they love.
Karla Lockwood, a Grade 9 teacher at École KLO Middle School in Kelowna, BC is working with groups of students to run their brand-new Power Full Kids Future Growers container farm that will provide kids with the tools to access fresh produce, growing it themselves – and an alternate classroom. The 40-foot shipping container is filled with rows of leafy greens and herbs including basil, oregano, and parsley. Bright full-spectrum lights shine down on the seedlings, while pumps circulate water through the hydroponic farm, creating a futuristic growing system.
Just a few months in, the farm is already seeing amazing success within the KLO school community. “It’s so cool,” says Karla. “Kids see first-hand the results of their learning. This is an incredible tool that can teach students about food security and sustainability — there are so many opportunities for learning.”
Kelowna is the country’s most abundant grower with extensive growing expertise. The staff at KLO is committed to putting that expertise to work developing a curriculum that can be shared with existing and future projects. Like Hector Thiboutot Community School in Sandy Bay, Saskatchewan – a remote community with no grocery store, and the next school to participate in Power Full Kids Future Growers.
So far, small groups of students from different grades and classes at KLO have been working in the farm, learning about the grow cycle, planting seedlings, harvesting, and cleaning trays. In the future, a grade 9 course focused on managing the farm will be offered for credit.
"The container farm is a fantastic way for students to learn hands-on about: new technologies, plant growth, and nutrition. The farm has huge potential for new, and engaging learning experiences" explains Riley, a grade 9 student.
The farm can teach students about more than just ecology. From kids in tech classes, who can learn about coding from the automated hydroponics system, to art students, who plan to paint the container farm’s walls with a portrait honoring the Okanagan First Nations’ Four Food Chiefs. One student has even started an experiment on whether plants grow faster with or without music.
With students excited about the new addition, the food classes are already involved. Basil harvested from the farm is being dried to use in recipes. And children have taken produce home to their families.
“The food is great - the best lettuce I’ve ever tasted! Probably because it wasn’t grown in dirt but loads of nutrients” says Liam, a grade 7 student at KLO. “This farm helps so many things including the community when you grow your own food”.
Once COVID-19 restrictions relax, the school will incorporate the produce they’ve grown into their daily food program, also supported by the charity. The school is planning to create hampers and sell them, so for every family who buys one, another would go to a family in need. They are also discussions about creating a veggie subscription box for parents. The possibilities are endless and KLO is thankful for the project.
“Making sure nutrition and good food is always available is very important – that’s what President’s Choice Children’s Charity is providing. Growth and connection to nutrition and education – we can’t express how much this farm has impacted our community, it immense.”