Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Thank You For Another Summer!

Today, was the last event of the 2015 season! We started the day by tending to the garden. The usual weeding and watering was thankfully ended with the reward of harvesting our plot. The kids and their parents were able to dig up a few carrots, some radishes and gathered a lot of lettuce, peas, chard, thyme and sage!


We were so fortunate to have Nikita Scringer, top 25 contestant on MasterChef Canada and fundraiser for the 2015 season of Kids Grow, lead the day's activities. She sent them off on a scavenger hunt around the garden to find items to collect and put in their very own fairy gardens. Nikita was really engaging and patient with the kids as she helped them create some sample fairy garden with the trinkets they found on their scavenger hunt, she explained about how seasons change, and all the change that comes to plants and trees when autumn rolls around.

After creating some sample fairy gardens with the kids and scavenging for more rocks, sticks and grasses that could be used for their own fairy gardens, the kids had a snack of carrots and bell peppers in the orchard, followed by story time. We read two different stories and the kids enjoyed them very much! The first was about a pumpkin patch, and the second was about planting a little seed and exercising patience in helping it grow throughout the season. Afterwards, the kids played their favourite game: Capture the Crops! We played about four rounds before everyone decided they were tired and thirsty and it was time for the sharing circle. We shared our favourite moments, games, stories, snacks and speakers from the summer. 

Thank you so much to all of the volunteers for all of your hard work and contributions to this summer's programming. Without the support, leadership, expertise and generosity of the strong team of volunteers, this program would not be able to run! We would also like to thank everyone that came out to participate in our programming; children, parents, friends and family. Whether you came once, three times or showed up every week, the dedication towards gaining an education around food and gardening as well as supporting small but uprising community programs and spending quality time with your child investing in their education is very much appreciated! 

We are really hoping to continue programming in Sunnyside next summer in addition to expanding the program in upcoming years. We are seeking a local organization interested in one or more of the following; food, education, community building, and gardening, to form a partnership with for the summer of 2016. To inquire about this opportunity, please contact Anisha at 

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Let's Go on a Scavenger Hunt!

Upon visiting the garden this week, we noticed that our garden beds were covered in a luscious forest of greenery. After weeks of hot and dry weather, lots of garden maintenance was required in order to ensure the ultimate well-being of our beloved Kids Grow garden plot. We started with some pruning of our spinach as they had all gone to flower. Did you know that spinach plants are more likely to bolt in hot weather? It is a self defence mechanism to make sure that if all the leaves dry up, the flowers will produce enough pollen to grow a new plant if necessary. If we let the plants go to flower, all of the plant's energy goes into producing the flowers and in turn, the leaves grow small and taste quite bitter. We snipped off the flowers to make sure all of the plant's energy is making it's way to the producing large, dark green and tasty leaves. The kids took turns to water the garden and also lent a helping hand by watering any of the plots in the community garden that belonged to vacationers or those unable to come out to the garden and water on a regular basis. After all, it is a community garden and we want to make sure we can do everything we can to help out our fellow community garden members! We lovingly watered these plants with great care as to be careful not to get too much water on the leaves. It water sits on the leaves in the hot sun, they can be singed and in very wet conditions, mould has a more suitable environment to grow. 

Following our gardening segment, we decided to read a story, in fact a guessing game, about plant identification! This was in preparation for our scavenger hunt in which the children and their families were asked to search the garden for various greens, veggies, flowers and berries! For some extra excitement, we also asked the kids to retrieve scattered puzzle pieces around the garden/orchard to build our mystery puzzle in conclusion of the day's adventure. A lot about plant growth was learned at this event, especially when our participants had trouble finding potatoes and beets in the garden! We also asked families to find some fun artifacts such as a crazy hamster (picture found below), a ken doll doing the splits and a pig wearing earrings. The kids searched high and low, far and near for all of the items on the list and were able to find almost everything. We also had them on a hunt for nature's creatures; a worm, a beetle and an ant. We had to pur our thinking caps on to find these creatures, as they aren't always visible to us wherever we look. After checking under rocks for beetles, digging in the ground for worms and peeking into cracks on the sidewalk for ants, we were successful in finding all the items on our list!

Since we've had some picky eaters at Kids Grow, especially in the department of vegetables, one of our awesome team members created rainbow cards for each child that pose the following question: Can you taste the colours of the rainbow this summer? The purpose of these cards is to encourage trying new vegetables in the garden and embracing new looks, flavours and textures. This week, we shared a snack of mini cucumbers and French Breakfast radishes. The kids were able to add fresh raspberries from the communal plot. Our day ended some exciting games of 'Fruit Salad' and 'Capture the Crops' and of course our weekly sharing circle to share our favourite part of the day!

You don't have to be an plant expert or hiking enthusiast to take a nature walk. Go on a hunt outdoors, spend some time in the sun and make time to appreciate the wonderful creations of nature that surround you. 

Monday, 10 August 2015

Snug as a Bug

On Saturday August 8th, we arrived at our garden to find that it was hit relatively hard by the hail storm earlier in the week. Thank goodness we harvested some of our veggies last week! The kids helped us by turning over the soil that had been flatted by the harsh weather. Although this turned mostly into looking for worms, the soil in our garden received the love that it needed.

After a few minutes of turning soil and finding worms, the kids met Judy Marsh from Outdoors In to learn all about bugs. Judy's philosophy is all about learning to care for the environment through experiential learning ie. hands on learning. The first thing she had the kids do was find all the parts of an insect that she hid around the orchard. When the kids brought all the pieces back, they assembled the mystery bug. It was a dragonfly! We learned all about how wonderful dragonflies are for the environment.

Judy also played several games with the kids including 'The Bat and the Moth,' which had a child blindfolded in the circle trying to find another child who was ringing a bell. This game emulated the way a bat uses its superb hearing to look for food at night. She also played a game which had the kids running a relay race as bumble bees getting pollen (tennis balls) from the other side of the park. The children (and adults) had so much fun playing bug games with Judy that they didn't even notice how much they were learning. The time we spent with Judy this morning was awesome.

After all the fun games, our little bugs worked up an appetite and met Laurie on the blanket for a snack and a story. Today's story was about caterpillars, another one of our favourite bugs!

We had so much fun today. We can't wait to see what next Saturday brings.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

How Do Plants Grow?

This week's activities centred on exploring the plant life cycle. After some very productive work weeding, watering and tasting some delicious edibles from the garden, the kids headed over to the orchard to get started on our first activity of the day.

They were quite adept at piecing together the whole narrative from the seed to the plant which flowers before finally bearing the fruit containing the seeds to start it all over again. It’s definitely a process that we overlook too often, yet it never ceases to amaze us when we contemplate how all the potentialities of a plant are contained in the seed – life’s original ‘miracle,’ that sustains all other life on this planet!

We also read a little story together that visualized this idea beautifully by illustrating the diversity of flowers and fruits carried on this Earth (who doesn’t love children’s books?!) and the kids were definitely recognizing a lot of the plants! The kids harnessed their artistic talents in composing some really creative pictures that incorporated actual plant-material with colourful additions of their own which all melded nicely together on the page, I have to say! 

Naturally, we finished off with a game full of laughter and fun, 'Capture the Crops'. It was a wonderful way to  enjoy the beautiful weather, get some exercise and end our wonderful day. 

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Waste in Our World

When we hear cycle of life our minds may not immediately go to what this really entails but thanks to Chrissy from Puzzle Permaculture we got the full low down on Waste in Our World. She talked about the sun side of life and the dark side. The sun side being those creatures that get their nutrients from the sunshine, plants, etc. But what about the waste these creatures create... yes humans too! What is our waste and how does this tie in to a positive life cycle? Hmmm well lets talk about the dark side and see if we can figure it out. As you may have guessed it, the dark side involves all that mysterious land under our feet in the vast and amazing earth. We put our waste into the earth and somehow this helps other creatures and plants obtain nutrients. So lets get to the bottom of this! What kind of creatures are down there and what really is our waste? Some that Chrissy talked to us about were bacteria that feed on waste.... then other creatures feed on bacteria... continuing on a cycle. What else? Fungi is a big one that looooves the dark side. Now here is the giveaway... a DUNG beetle. Okay so you guessed it folks! Poop. We're talkin' about poop. Many creatures survive off our bodily waste! Chrissy had some pretty neat examples for us and we even got to spread fertilizer created by worms and fungi in our garden so it's sure to grow wonderfully with all the added nutrients. It was interesting to learn that the best fertilizer is created by animals that eat only grains... so no, unfortunately, your dog is not helping out your garden! It is so interesting to learn as plants and creatures how we all really are connected in the cycle  of life.

For story time we read the book, "I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean" by Kevin Sherry, and I really suggest checking it out! It is hilarious and in a child-like manner puts things in perspective! Then we enjoyed a delicious snack of blueberries and grapes and had lots of fun playing games in the orchard!

A huge thank you to Chrissy and all the wonderful families that made it out!

See you next week!

Friday, 24 July 2015

Making Pesto with Sharon

On Saturday July 18 the crew at Kids Grow! were fortunate to have Sharon from Poppy Innovations teach us how to make pesto using the ingredients the kids grew in our garden. Sharon talked about the importance of nutrition and how important it is for people to eat healthy food.

While Sharon was setting up, we played a game of Fruit Salad in the picnic area. Everyone had fun running around and thinking of our favourite fruits! Strawberries, raspberries, saskatoons, bananas (& banana bread!), apples, grapes, and more! There were so many fruits to choose.

Then, the moment we have all been waiting for finally arrived: we got to pick the spinach! Using the freshly picked spinach, Sharon taught us how to make some delicious pesto. Sharon delegated various tasks to the kids so that everyone had a part in making the pesto.

We had some people using a mortar and pestle to crush the spinach and greens, others were grating cheese, cutting pita, squeezing lemons, and some were even shaving the garlic with a micro-plane. Everyone worked together to make the pesto, and when we were done mixing the ingredients we were able to eat it. Yum!

With bellies full of our fabulous pesto, we said our goodbyes.
What a fantastic day!

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Do you hear what I hear?

Birds seem to be abundant in the city of Calgary but we tend to overlook and become oblivious towards the common group of pigeons that hover over a green field in the summer or the crow that caws at you on your daily commute to work. What role do these birds play in our community, the greater ecosystem and more specifically our garden?

These are a few of the questions we began to explore at our Kids Grow event on Saturday, July 11th. We began by familiarizing ourselves with the common birds of Calgary. Many people are familiar with the Mallards and Geese that inhabit the surrounding bodies of water and the crows and pigeons that socialize in public areas but how much do we know about the starlings and sparrows? After our information session conducted through a fun game of matching bird pictures with their corresponding facts and bird calls, we took a nature walk to see what birds we could find. Our hearing skills were surely heightened on this adventure as we had to find the proprietors of each distinct sound amongst the harmonious bird chatter.

After our nature walk, we headed back to the garden to make some bird feeders. Many varieties of bird seed that can be bought at your local grocery stores contain preservatives and other not-so-nice things that can harm our wildlife. We decided to make our own using goodies that are safe for birds and completely edible for humans. Another problem highlighted with bird feeders is the sheer dependence birds can develop to an man-made source of food. The bigger your bird feeder and the more you refill it, the greater the chances are that birds in your area will keep coming back for more and develop a reliance on your goods. Ensure that your feeder is small and contains a variety of seeds and dried fruits that can be supplementary to their diet and not fully meet their dietary requirements. We made bird feeders out of orange peels! Click here for the instructions.

Succeeding our bird feeder construction were some fun bird-themed games! We began with the 'Duck Waddle' and finished with 'The Little Lost Birdie' in which parents and children paired up, one as the mama bird and one as the blindfolded baby bird. The mama bird would announce her specific bird call to the baby and the little birdie would have to use her listening skills to find her mama bird!

To learn more about birds in Calgary, check out the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary. The walking trails are unfortunately closed due to the flood damage from last year but they continue to offer information through their nature and free tours to those interested.