Students become teachers at Sardis secondary

More than 300 elementary students learned gardening and other farming essentials at Sardis secondary this week.

“I have one question,” the little boy asked, his nose scrunched and his eyes wide with wonder.

“What is that smell?”

The answer given was not technical, nor was it filled with authoritative science mumbo jumbo. Rather, it was one word that a boy in Grade 3 could surely understand and remember.

Standing in the Sardis secondary agriculture department’s red barn, with chickens scampering about, Derrick Huizenga smiled confidently before letting the answer fall from his mouth.

“Poop,” he said.

Huizenga, a Grade 12 student at Sardis secondary, was one of several Grade 11 and 12 students to take on the role of teacher this week.

Students in the high school’s sustainable resources courses (agriculture) taught hundreds of Grade 2s and 3s the fundamentals of gardening – as a way of mastering their own knowledge in the subject.

Over a three-day span, from Wednesday to Friday, more than 300 students from Unsworth elementary, Sardis elementary, Tyson elementary, Yarrow elementary and Watson elementary attended.

It was the second time the agriculture department had offered the event; the first in 2012.

“This is an opportunity for our students to highlight their strengths and to have fun with their learning,” said teacher Tania Toth. “It’s giving them the chance to be a leader, a mentor, and to practise the topics they’re learning.”

The junior planters were toured through several areas of farming education. They visited the red barn with the chickens and rooster, and some even had the lucky opportunity to witness the hypnotization of a chicken by one of the senior students. They learned about good bugs and bad bugs in the school’s greenhouse that was filled with a rainbow of potted plants and flowers. And they even got to pot their own marigolds and petunias.

For Grade 12 student Darrian Ryce, it’s a field trip she would have loved as a young student.

“I love gardening,” she said, talking a mile a minute, every word filled with excitement. “I think it’s important to learn about agriculture, especially in Chilliwack, because 67 per cent of Chilliwack is agriculture based.

“I hope this will further their knowledge and interest in agriculture and gardening.”

Given the young squeals of delight heard coming from every corner on Wednesday afternoon, that goal may very well have been achieved.

At the planting station, pudgy fingers patted down the dirt around their flowers, and twinkling eyes admired the bright colours. One of the teenaged teachers quizzed her young subjects why it necessary to regularly water their plants.

The answers were quick.

“So we don’t kill it,” said one boy.

“So the soil doesn’t get so hot it dies,” said another.

Walking past the chicken coop, a boy wags his arm at the rooster inside.

“One rooster has to fertilize all those eggs?” he questioned. “Whoa!”

Grade 12 student Carmen Taylor loved the opportunity it provided her.

“We’re usually sitting in a classroom having [educational] stuff thrown at us constantly,” she said. “This was a refreshing break, a nice change outside of every day schooling.”

And even though the information they were teaching was at a much lower level from their learning, “it still tests our knowledge,” said Taylor.

The event, this year, was two fold. Not only did it have an educational purpose, but also a building community function.

The school district’s new, five-acre agriculture centre on Richardson Avenue, opening this fall, will include a school community garden where elementary classes will have the opportunity to plant their own gardens under the guidance of Sardis secondary students.

“It’s a good tool to use to bring our school communities together,” said Toth.

With the hopes of inspiring the next generation of farmers.