Oriole Park students win $1,150 grand prize from Canadian Geographic Classroom Challenge

“At the beginning we thought, ‘wouldn’t it be fun, especially after COVID, for the kids to have a hands-on project that combines curriculum, which is a Grade 4 curriculum (plants, growing) and a little bit of math and a little bit of language arts, with a real experience in the garden?’” she said.

“I don’t know if you heard the boy who was thrilled because he found the squash but there aren’t very many 10 year olds who love to do that, so I think we accomplished our goal.”

Beebe says she later discovered Canadian Geographic’s Queen’s Jubilee Classroom Challenge and worked with her 25 students to win.

The Challenge consisted of Canadian classrooms discovering and learning about native plants that grow naturally in their own communities based on climate, rain patters, soil and other factors.

The first part of the Challenge encouraged teachers to reply to a Canadian Geographic social media post by sharing student-researched native plants using the hashtag #GreenJubilee. The students of Oriole Park were one of 65 schools to win the $150 tertiary prize.

The second part of the Challenge required a submission from classrooms describing what actions students were taking to support native plants.

From mid-April to mid-June, students walked 5.8 km once a week to volunteer at the Common Ground Project, each taking home a “sweet” mini-garden to work on throughout their summer vacation, says Kennedy.

“I just think it speaks to the volume of work that they did and the classroom and certainly down here [Common Ground Garden] to get kids excited literally about walking here and back and gardening all afternoon,” said Lori Irvine, Oriole Park Principal.

As a result, the Oriole Park students won the sole grand prize of $1,000 and a Canadian Geographic Education prize pack.

Upon their return from the summer into Grade 5, Kennedy says the students rushed to the garden to continue their volunteer efforts with Beebe as their teacher once again.

Kennedy says the students not only learned how to garden, but also how to make recipes as they were rewarded with a lunch prepared by the “fruits of their labour” this September, eating pasta with a basil, onion, tomato sauce, grilled zucchini and fresh vegetables with spinach dip, all grown from the garden.

“Collaboration was huge,” said Beebe. “When I saw four, five children around a big black bin carrying soil, it was huge.”

“Collaboration, cooperation, resiliency, respect and they’re kind.”

Although it is unknown yet as to what the funds will be used for, Beebe says the school has a banker and non-profit youth organization Junior Achievement coming in to help guide the staff in how to best spend the funds while simultaneously teaching the students about financial literacy.

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