Grade 3 students plant Three Sisters garden
By Sue Tiffin
A collaboration of students and adult volunteers working together on a sunny day last week planted a garden with a crop that will also work together.
The group of Grade 3 Archie Stouffer Elementary School students and volunteers from the Minden and District Horticultural Society and the Haliburton County Master Gardeners shared with each other what they knew about weeding, gardening and repotting when they joined together outside at the Minden Hills Cultural Centre on May 30 to get things growing.
To many, the scene would be a familiar one: last Thursday marked the 17th year around this time that ASES students have partnered with teaching staff and volunteers from the MDHS and the HCMG to plant on the cultural centre grounds.
The program, which originally had students and volunteers coming weekly to the garden for eight weeks was first planned in January 2002 by Bonnie Pentney of the HCMG, Pauline Plooard of the HCMG and MDHS, Irene Alexander of the MDHS and a volunteer at ASES, Anje Hilkers and Anna Holloway of the MDHS and Carol Miles, then curator of Minden Hills Museum, and with support from Grade 3 teachers Michele Coneybeare and Darlene Hill. Financial support was offered by MDHS, the Haliburton County Master Gardeners, the Minden Hills Museum and the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge, District Health Unit
“Initially flowers were the focus: heritage perennial gardens for the museum and classroom activities concerning seeds, propagation, pollination and transplanting,” reads a history of the program written by Pauline Plooard with updates by Pat Johnson, leader of the youth program of the MDHS. “Eventually shrubs, apple trees and vegetables were incorporated into the museum gardens.”
Rose Paliwoda, a longtime lead of the program recommended a Three Sisters garden for Grade 3 students, given that it fit the Growing Green Plants and Pioneer Life units of the school curriculum.
“A Three Sisters garden contains corn, beans and squash: the three sisters,” reads the history by Plooard and Johnson. “For centuries, this type of garden was planted by the Native Americans who passed the technique on to the European settlers. The Three Sisters provided a nutritious diet and ensure continuous fertility of the soil. The proteins in corn and beans complement each other and provide all the essential amino acids. The squash provides additional vitamins. The beans fix nitrogen from the air into the soil to be used by the corn and squash. The corn provides a structure for the climbing beans. The squash leaves shade all the roots to conserve moisture, prevent weeds and their prickly texture deters predators. The produce from this garden goes to the Minden Food Bank (except for the corn which goes to the raccoons).”
The program, now six weeks long, changes annually. This year students and volunteers also repotted seedlings of bug-resistant plants like geraniums, marigolds, mint and basil to put inside buildings on the cultural centre grounds. The rest of the program is held at the school or on small field trips, and includes hands-on activities like growing a sunflower or pumpkin from seed in a plastic bag greenhouse; making seed balls; learning about worms; taking a tour of Home Hardware’s Garden Centre; repotting a geranium donated by Home Hardware to take home, learning about butterflies and making a bee house.
“The kids really enjoy the program and learn a lot,” said Johnson. “It’s a fun way to teach them about plants and we all enjoy it.”
A similar program for elementary school students runs in Bobcaygeon.