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The Garden Bed

By Martin Holbery
The Garden Bed

The picture of green, sustainable learning (photo: CISS/M. Holbery).
At Concordia International School Shanghai (CISS), the school’s everyday culture embraces processes that take environmental responsibility into account. The incorporation of reclaimed and sustainable building materials in construction projects; a geothermal exchange system for heating and cooling; wind-turbine electricity generation; green roofs and walls around campus; paper and plastic recycling; garden-beds; and water-saving faucet sensors all speak to our commitment.
Such everyday, eco-friendly practices help motivate students through example, and encourage teachers to continually explore their educational role as advocates for eco-responsibility.
One such example of exploration is the story of an ongoing, collaborative garden-bed initiative launched by our preschool at the beginning of this school year. Our preschool team introduced the Garden-bed Project to serve a variety of student learning objectives, and to teach important lessons about the environment.
As a preschool teacher, I was inspired by educator David Sobel, who says, “If we want children to flourish … we need to give them time to connect with nature and to love the Earth … before we ask them to save it.”
With this hands-on approach at the heart of the initiative, the Garden-bed Project unfolded. Our ten garden-beds, located on Concordia’s main athletic field, are within view and easy reach of the elementary, middle and high school divisions.
The garden-beds allow all students, from preschool to Grade 12, to “get their hands dirty” and develop an appreciation and love for the Earth. Each of the garden-beds purposefully contains soil with different compositions, including commercial potting mix, organically sourced soil, and even soil sourced from our own Concordia campus!
Preschool and elementary school students lovingly tend the garden beds. They water plants and feed the soil, using compost created from food scraps. Using recycled plastic bottles, our middle school students are involved in the construction of hot-house covers for the garden-beds. High school students for their part have grown various plants from seeds, for observation and eco-awareness displays.
With so many “dirty hands” involved in the management of the garden-beds, we are now engaged in collaborative and experiential learning across a range of ages, all while developing an appreciation for our Earth.
Making the learning even sweeter, students have been able to enjoy a rewarding glass of mint iced tea, or salads made from our very own, school-grown vegetables!
The Garden-bed Project has taught us how well eco-responsibility can be promoted through engaging activities. These can move us from ignorance to understanding, from consumption to production, and perhaps most importantly, from disconnection to connection with nature—and with others in our community.
Each of us makes a difference, and collectively we can achieve great results.
From July 2013.

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