Recently, parents received a field trip form requesting $14.00 for their child to participate in activities related to the school garden. There has been some confusion surrounding this fee. We are sending this communication to parents to help clarify.
 
What does the $14.00 cover? What will my child learn?
The $14.00 per student fee covers 70% of the cost of having a nutritionist and urban gardener visit the school once a week to work with students. Rocky Mountain Flatbread is covering the remaining 30% with a $5,000 donation.
The nutritionist and urban gardener come to us via the EarthBites program. EarthBites is a Rocky Mountain Flatbread Education Society program which partners with schools to develop school gardens and implement related educational activities. They work with teachers to set goals and integrate the food garden program into existing classroom activities.
EarthBites educators work hands on with students and teachers. Students learn about plants, nutrition and the environment by preparing garden beds, growing organic food and preserving harvests. They also learn how to create healthy snacks and eco-friendly crafts.
Produce and crafts are sold through school pocket markets, where students nurture and develop their leadership and entrepreneurial skills. All monies raised go back into the school garden.
EarthBites educational services are innovative learning opportunities that enhance the school’s curriculum. Teachers voted to support the initiative by including it in classroom activities. Parents also voted to support it when the PAC set its budget priorities last fall (more on this below).
To learn more about EarthBites, you can read their 2012-2013 program information sheet.
 
How often will my child participate?
Each Trafalgar class has worked with EarthBites at least twice this school year. A third rotation will happen this spring. Therefore, all classes will get at least three sessions with the EarthBites team this school year.
Many teachers also use the school garden as a learning tool for students outside of the EarthBites program.
 
But don’t the pocket markets support the school garden?
Yes, funds raised through the pocket markets go back into the school garden. So far, this year’s pocket markets have raised about $500, which covers the cost of seeds. Another pocket market will happen this week, where student will sell homemade green cleaning products. Again, this money will go back into the school garden.
 
Is there any other funding available?
Yes, we have applied for a $1,500 grant from Evergreen and a $3,000 grant from Wholefoods to cover the costs of a planned aboriginal garden, shed, composter and garden tools for students and volunteers.
The PAC has donated funds to cover soil and mulch for beds and some of these other items. If our grant applications are successful, some of these funds can be reimbursed to the PAC.
As mentioned above, Rocky Mountain Flatbread has generously donated $5,000 to cover 30% of the EarthBites program costs this year.
Thus, while the $14.00 fee and Rocky Mountain Flatbread donation cover the costs of educational services related to the garden, these other funding sources (grants, the PAC) are for capital improvements, such as soil, sheds, composters and tools.
 
Why am I being asked to cover educational costs this year but not last year?
Last year, Rocky Mountain Flatbread very generously donated $20,000 to cover costs. This year, many other schools have implemented their own school gardens and have requested funding assistance for education. With the Rocky Mountain Flatbread program now extended to six other schools, each school will receive a smaller funding portion. Trafalgar was extremely fortunate to have such a large portion of our gardening education costs covered by Rocky Mountain Flatbread in the past.
 
As a parent, do I have any input on these types of decisions?
Yes, absolutely! All financial decisions are discussed and voted on at monthly PAC meetings. Funding for the school garden was debated and passed by parents as part of the PAC’s annual budget setting meeting. Parents at the meeting felt that the school garden held as much educational value as a typical class fieldtrip and could be funded in the same way. Some argued that the school garden is of even greater value than a typical fieldtrip – after all, the garden can be used throughout the school year, not just one day.
As a Trafalgar parent, you are encouraged to attend PAC meetings to listen to proposed initiatives, express your view and vote. Our next meeting will be Tuesday, April 9th from 7:00-8:30 p.m. in the school library. All Trafalgar parents are welcome and encouraged to come. Child minding is also available if you request it in advance.
 
Why are there so many fundraising initiatives at the school?
There are many worthy causes. Lately we’ve had groups raising money for the Grade 7 Quebec exchange trip (with raffles and a used book fair) and the school library (with the Scholastic book fair). The PAC had a direct appeal campaign last fall and continues to raise funds via hot lunches and hot dog days. You may have also had requests for classroom specific initiatives.
The school and the PAC do not limit who can ask for funds (as long they relate to and support the school community in some way). For the most part, it is up to parents to decide which initiatives they want to support.
 
Should you have any additional questions about the school garden and related programs, please email the PAC (info@trafalgarpac.ca).
You can stay up to date on school events and PAC meetings by subscribing to the school e-newsletter. You can also check the PAC website (trafalgarpac.ca) for more information about the PAC and our initiatives.