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The Giving of the Gardens

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Originally appears in the Summer 2016 issue

Is the Giving of the Gardens happening soon?” “Can I make a bouquet or put the ribbons on the trowels?” These are the questions we hear from students each September. As the leaves start to change color and we bring in the harvest from the school gardens, the whole school begins to anticipate our annual Giving of the Gardens ceremony.

The ceremony was born of a desire to formally acknowledge the passing on of garden stewardship from one class to the next. This could be done informally, but at our school we like to celebrate the things we value most. “Givers” from last year’s class pass on garden artifacts and advice to “receivers” from this year’s class in a half hour outdoor ceremony.

Because we are a 150-year-old school, originally founded in the Anglican tradition, telling parts of our history through stories and prayer is an important tradition. Each year during Giving of the Gardens, nature itself adds to the script with surprise visits from migrating turkey vultures or wind gusts that sprinkle leaves down on us in the autumn sun. A small hill in our schoolyard is the site of our ceremony each year. Over the years that a student belongs to our school, they develop snap-shots in their head of the ceremony, each characterized by the different temperature, clouds, wind, and foliage over the hill that year. We believe these experiences build a sense of belonging, not only to this spot, but also to the natural world in general.

“We give to you this trowel to represent the stewardship and care we used in growing vegetables from seed, watering them, and harvesting them.” Each “giver” speaks these words, each year. Similar phrases are shared as the “receivers” accept the various harvest baskets, wildflower bouquets, and jars of fresh, student-made salsa. The passing of the garden artifacts from hand-to-hand builds a sense of pride in our purpose and our place.

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Alison Elliott is the environmental coordinator and a middle school science teacher at Trinity College School, Port Hope, ON. Since 2005 she has taught a weekly outdoor classroom program on a 100-acre campus that includes gardening, exploration, observation, games, art, science, reflection, and more.