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Food for thought

Published:Friday | March 5, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Some of the pak choi being grown in the garden at the school.
Students of St Aloysius Primary School in downtown Kingston examine the contents of the vegetable garden at the institution. - Photos by Kyle Macpherson/Freelance Photographer

St Aloysius students learn to grow what they eat

Laura Redpath,
Senior Staff Reporter

Twelve-year-old Daquan Daley says he thinks St Aloysius students are better off for knowing how to support and feed themselves through vegetable gardening.

St Aloysius Primary in downtown Kingston is one of many schools that take vegetable gardening on their premises seriously.

"It is very important because you never know what the future holds," Daley, a sixth-grader, said in a low voice.

"Planting is important to Jamaica because we're in a crisis."

According to Dr Marceline Collins-Figueroa, who sits on the Joint Board of Teacher Education (JBTE) and lectures in science and environmental education at the University of the West Indies, teachers' colleges are incorporating the environment into many of their courses.

Behavioural change necessary

She also said that by infusing the environment into the curricula at teachers' colleges, educators will then be able to teach their students environmental sustainability.

"I think children are environmentally aware," she said. "The problem is the behaviourial change."

The JBTE has certified more than 50,000 Caribbean teachers over a 45-year period. The board has also been responsible for diversifying the curricula since 1965.

Santina Taylor, a Mico University College third-year student in the guidance and counselling programme, said she wanted to pursue a vegetable-garden project before arriving at St Aloysius for her placement.

"Most of my colleagues (at Mico) are doing the same thing. If not a vegetable garden, then a flower garden."

While at the primary school, Taylor said she plans on teaching the children about the environmental and health benefits of maintaining such gardens.

Teaching boys to be farmers

Daley, along with Michael Markland, Omaly Christoba and Nathaniel Whyte, helped Taylor sow pak choi seeds and, in five weeks, they should be able to harvest.

Growing what they eat isn't new to the downtown school. Craig Denton, guidance counsellor, helped in making the garden a reality.

According to Denton, the vegetable patch is meant to provide food for the breakfast programme at the school, and has been doing so for the past four years, starting off with callaloo.

"We teach the young boys how to be farmers. We also teach them how to become friends to the environment by planting and keeping the environment clean. We need persons to be responsible."

The four 12-year-old boys, Markland, Christoba, Whyte and Daley, take pride in their seedlings. They're responsible for keeping the younger children away from the plants - so as not to trample them - watering twice a day and clearing any rubbish.

"With our guidance, we can turn (the students) into farmers overnight," the guidance counsellor said.

"From the soil itself, the children can come together and produce something worthwhile."