BEAT BC Green Games
The Brentwood Environmental Action Team (BEAT) has been committed to promoting environmental awareness and action within our school and wider community for many years. Initiatives that have already taken place this year have included waste-sorting education, coastline cleanups, transporting Coho salmon blocked by a waterfall to their spawning grounds, building bird houses to support the dwindling population of tree swallows and violet green swallows at local wetlands, and fun events like hikes and bonfires to allow students to appreciate the natural beauty around us on Vancouver Island.
One of our biggest projects this year, however, has been a new school gardening initiative. We have an amazing school garden space, but many students at Brentwood didn’t even know it existed. Looking to capitalize on this potential, the BEAT brought together a team of students who were excited to learn about sustainable agriculture. This group gathers when needed to discuss plans and goals for the garden, and on some Sundays we do hands-on work in the garden for an hour or two. There are so many advantages that a school garden space can bring, and we have decided to focus on 3 pillars: Community Wellness, Learning, and Food.
Working in gardens has been proven to lower anxiety levels and improve mental and emotional wellbeing. Not only do we want these benefits to go to our core gardening team, but we will be providing opportunities for other students to spend time helping in the garden, as well as connecting with the local nature school to teach their elementary students about some of the principles we will be implementing. In addition, we have been working with our grounds team to develop a plan to transform a space in the middle of campus from a lawn into a herb and berry garden. This will serve as a space for students to learn and relax, as well as supplying our community with fresh herbs for Crooks Dining Hall. Annika M, Alex ‘21 noted that “Working in the garden is really fun”, and is a “good way to take a break from school work”.
Gardens also provide massive learning potential. The garden team has been learning about regenerative gardening techniques like permaculture principles, effective composting, and aquaponics, and are working to transfer that knowledge into the development of our garden. We have also collaborated with a local youth permaculture teacher, and she spoke to the BEAT members about regenerative lifestyle and farming; we hope to incorporate some of these techniques into our garden. A few raised beds in our garden have also been designated for science classes to conduct hands-on biological, ecological, or agricultural experiments.
Lastly, we will be focusing on growing a high concentration of food in a relatively small area. In the past few years, we have developed a partnership with our local food-bank and been able to supply them with some food. This year, we will take this to another level by learning from them about what fresh vegetables are most in demand, and then designing a comprehensive garden plan in which most of the food we grow goes to the foodbank to help feed families in our community.
On Brentwood’s Charity Work Day in early April, a team of students will be working with our maintenance and grounds teams in the garden to build a deer fence around it, move compost and soil to create a large new growing area, build more raised garden beds, and install an automatic irrigation system to keep the garden healthy throughout the summer. In early May, we will be visiting OUR EcoVillage in Shawnigan Lake to do some volunteer work in their garden, and learn about the regenerative agriculture systems there. Mr McCarthy, who is involved in leading this project, says he is “Excited to see how far [the project] goes”!
To read more about this project, see what other schools are doing, and vote on Brentwood’s submission to help us win a grant that will go towards expanding future BEAT projects, visit this link.
Sarah R, Mackenzie ‘20