Terrace Garden Pilot Project

By Jennifer Brandsberg

Recently, Design students have taken on a new project to collaborate with the Sustainability Action Lab to pilot a new garden on the 3rd floor terrace. MYP2 and 3 students are creating “Garden Grow Bags.” Their ideas are already growing!

Working with their teacher Jesse Poulton, MYP2/3s designed a grow bag in small groups, setting design specifications that were guided by an overall “guiding concept.” Concepts included ideas like “planting for food,” “planting for bees,” or “planting our favourite plants.” The grow bags themselves are made from recycled PET bottles, in keeping with the overall circular design concept now being tried out in the 3rd floor Visual Arts and Design wing.

Figure 1. (from top to bottom): students developed design specifications using an online interactive Miro board.
This is the design created by one student, Walina Kamal.

The students germinated their seeds over the Spring Break holiday and a number of them came into school on a Friday afternoon to get their plants into the bags.

Figure 2. Seedlings waiting to be transplanted into the grow bags by the students

The bags are sitting on wooden pallets donated by Mr. Kreuzer, the parent of an MYP3 student. Thank you Mr. Kreuzer! These pallets will protect the terrace floor while we pilot the garden.

Figure 3. Grow bags on pallets donated by Mr. Kreuzer, an MYP3 parent

The initial project is small with the aim of seeing what difficulties and barriers there are to establishing a garden on the terrace. How heavy are the bags? How are they best organized to take advantage of sun, shade, and rain and avoid damage from excessive heat and wind? How easy is it to keep the plants watered, also over the summer? Can we establish a rotation of care? A small trial allows us to answer these questions, to determine whether we should scale up the garden project next school year. We certainly hope that the pilot is a success, because the benefits of establishing a garden on the 3rd floor terrace are many. 

First, opening up that space and making it attractive for students and staff will expand the outdoor space available to our community. Given our experience with the pandemic this past year, we recognize the need to provide more of these open spaces in our school to promote human thriving, the local-social lens of the Doughnut model for sustainability. The blank slate of the 3rd floor terrace is a great space to try this out.

Figure 4. A wide open space for experimentation

Second, by establishing a garden on the now barren terrace, the school will be providing ecosystem services (supporting biodiversity, providing food for pollinators, temperature regulation, carbon storage, etc.) in the hyper-local environment. This aligns with the local-ecological lens of the Doughnut model, where the school explores how it can regenerate its local ecological systems and help our school work more like Nature.

Third, such a garden can provide more learning opportunities for our students. We have a number of units in the PYP and MYP, and opportunities in the DP where students could engage with gardening in the terrace space. Combined with the hydroponics pilot (Figure 5) project currently underway in the Grand Meeting Room (GMR), we could establish a much larger experimental green space for our students to learn about plants. Should we decide that scaling up is a good idea, we will certainly be looking at the MYP5 Design student’s ideas for how to move forward.

Figure 5. Hydroponics in the GMR

We will keep you posted on the progress of these projects – fingers crossed they thrive!

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