What We Do
Our mission is to bring children into the “outdoor classroom” where they connect with the earth and their community. Our vision can be summed up in a simple equation:
“Kids + gardens + healthy food = stronger communities”
Fundamentally, we believe that everyone benefits when children are given the opportunity to play in the dirt, plant some seeds, harvest what they grow, and to taste something fresh and delicious. Our program promotes community, local organic food, healthy eating choices, and food sustainability.
The following five principles guide our work:
- child focused and community-based
- collaborative and participatory
- intergenerational cooperation and mutual respect
- social and personal responsibility
- stewardship of the land and its resources
How We Do It
The Richmond Schoolyard Society is a non-profit community-based project that connects elementary and high school students with the earth, the community around them, and agriculture at large.
The Schoolyard Project is based on three simple concepts:
|learn||Children learn about organic gardening, our impact on the environment, and soil science.|
|grow||Children enjoy hands-on opportunities to plant seeds, turn compost and harvest vegetables.|
|nourish||Children nourish themselves with delicious dishes made from produce grown in the garden and nourish the community by donating excess crops to the Richmond Food Bank.|
Working with adult volunteers from the community, children learn to grow, harvest and eat nutritiously. "Outdoor classroom" activities integrate the complete food cycle, from seed to table and from table back to soil. Activities are aligned with the school curriculum, helping to cement learning by integrating classroom concepts. For example, mathematical concepts are illustrated by weighing harvested produce or by calculating the percentage of yielded crop.
How We Came To Be
The Richmond Schoolyard Project (formerly the Terra Nova Schoolyard Project) was founded in 2006 by Chef Ian Lai, an instructor at the Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver. Frustrated by his students’ lack of knowledge about how the food cycle works, he embarked on a quest to introduce children to where their food comes from. For Chef Lai, these students are the champions of tomorrow and if they understand the food cycle, they will take care of it, be respectful and responsible for the earth, and appreciate local bounty. He began with a small plot of land donated by the Sharing Farm (which grows food for the Richmond Food Bank) and his daughter’s grade 3 - 4 class from Quilchena Elementary.
After its first growing cycle, the Schoolyard Project expanded from 30 students in 1 school to 120 students in 2 schools and 2 community centres. By the third growing season, the Project had grown to include 2 more elementary schools and a First Nations youth program. Nearly 1500 students from 8 elementary schools currently participate in the Schoolyard Project.