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‘STEAM and Sprouts’ wins Awesome Kingston July grant

STEAM and Sprouts aims to create a more holistic, hands-on science program for students. Grade 7 teacher Catherine Tang created this garden during her asynchronous lessons to share with her students. Photo by Catherine Tang.

Last week, Awesome Kingston awarded their July grant to ‘STEAM and Sprouts,’ a project which aims to fund a more holistic, hands-on science program for students to explore the natural world. The $1,000 micro-grant supports local projects the Awesome Kingston trustees think will help keep Kingston awesome.

STEAM and Sprouts, presented by a local Grade 7 teacher, strives to help students develop curiosity and a desire to care for the natural world and make connections to food production and consumption.

“In Grade 7 science, one of the areas we explore deals with interactions in the environment,” shared Catherine Tang, the project’s creator. “This can encompass so many things, from sustainability and environmental issues, to understanding the role of succession and managing invasive species. I’ve been interested in the local food movement for quite some time, and have been looking for ways to bring that into the classroom.”

During the asynchronous (digital) learning periods this year, Tang created a garden in her own backyard, and said it has been a “source of joy and wonder,” for herself and her family.

“We are often so disconnected from the process of food production, so STEAM and Sprouts is a great way to restore some of that to my students’ lives,” Tang continued. “I knew of some people who had grown mushrooms through kits from Fungi Connection, so I thought that we could weave everything together to build an experience for my students that will allow them to grow, harvest, and consume their own food.”

As a longtime Grade 7 teacher, Tang said she loves the flexibility of adapting the school curriculum to her class each year. “Any teacher can choose to start grow projects within their classrooms, and I know many who have already done so. I think the key is for teachers to see the connections that they can make to their local community, and to be willing to try different things out within the parameters of what they’re teaching,” she said. “I shared during the pitch party that one of the specific expectations in grade 7 science is actually to build a model ecosystem, and this project is just one way to do that.”

A large portion of the grant money will be spent on purchasing grow kits, seeds, or vegetables, as well as materials for building planters to grow vegetables in. Tang said she thinks of this grant as seed money — no pun intended — for a two-year pilot project.

“As we get close to the end of next year, I’ll be looking to develop further partnerships and apply for other grants to see this continue in years to come. I would really love to see this project become a thriving partnership with some local growers and farmers,” she said.

The majority of the outdoor growing season happens when school is not in session. Tang said she hopes to build connections with local farms and bring more knowledgeable voices into the conversation throughout the school year. “At the end of the day, I hope for my students to see that what they’re learning in school has deep application outside of the four walls of a school building. My broader aim as a teacher is always to help my students gain some skills that will help them live more curious, sustainable, healthy lives outside of school. Perhaps it would give my students a chance to engage in some work in local farms and gardens, too!”

Tang is interested in connecting with anyone in the local community involved in the food production cycle. She can be reached via email at [email protected] and find her on Twitter at @EduScribblings

Awesome Kingston will not be awarding a grant in August, but will return to keeping Kingston awesome in September. Follow their Facebook and Twitter pages for news and updates.

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