An inspired, environmentally-integrated, children's learning campus proposed for 3452 Jingle Pot Road, Nanaimo.
What is a Montesori Farm School?
In Montessori education there is a great emphasis on hands-on learning and providing experiences in the environment. At all levels from infancy through adolescence, Montessori students apply their learning and build their skills using real-world activities and applications. The farm school concept grew from the later work of Dr. Maria Montessori while she developed the Montessori adolescent program which she called the 'erdkinder' program. In this concept, a school community is intentionally situated on a working farm. The farm environment acts as a microcosm of society providing meaningful real-world ways for students to connect to their learning, to each other, to economy, and to society. The learning environments on the farm - both inside and outside - are specially prepared for students to apply their academic and social work, through hands-on activities.
What does this mean in practice? It means that our students will grow and harvest crops in biology. They will use algebra to build gates and mend fences. Students will collect eggs in science and snuggle goats for compassion building. Older students will run horse boarding business and sell vegetables to learn about financial management and collaboration. They will cook with the produce they grow to learn practical life skills. Students can tend bees and care for livestock to learn about animal husbandry and history. Children can learn to build bird houses and habitat structures to attract wildlife in their community-based environmental work. They can observe nature in Art class, and practice self care outside surrounded by nature. Children can study the water temperature of McClure Creek as citizen scientists and Streamkeepers.... There are just so many opportunities on the land for children to explore and to follow their curiosities and passions. All the while building a solid academic foundation and a useful set of applicable and versatile life skills.
Why is it important? Through activities like these our students will begin to deeply understand where their food comes from, and how the earth's systems are interconnected. They will see first hand why it is so important for us to take care of nature, to protect our planet, and be kind to one another. With agriculture taking center stage at the DMS Farm School, the students will know the importance of community and have compassion for all living things. They will learn that by taking personal responsibility and contributing their unique talents, each one of them has the ability and the opportunity to make our world a better place for all. It sounds so idyllic and practical ... because it is!
The proposed DMS Farm School Project at 3452 Jingle Pot Road
The proposed DMS Montessori Farm School Campus will offer a sustainable farm-based children's learning campus, situated on a beautiful 20 acres, minutes from Nanaimo. It is made possible in part by a generous $1.5 million dollar grant from the Ministry of Children and Family Development's New Spaces Fund which will open up more desperately needed child care spaces for Nanaimo and RDN area families.
In 2017 Discover Montessori Society entered into a long term lease on the property. Over the years we have been working with various provincial and municipal bodies to achieve the permissions to further develop and design the school. The Agricultural Land Commission has approved the school to build upon on the existing gravel parking lot, and this enables the school to protect and rejuvenate the important agricultural lands that surround it.
We are working closely with the Regional District of Nanaimo to navigate the re-zoning of the parking lot area to allow for the school use. Note: we are NOT applying to rezone the entire parcel, just the parking lot. Any permissions and zones will be for the sole benefit of DMS and will be non-transferrable to other parties should the school no longer exist. This protects the integrity of these agricultural lands, and ensures they stay in the Agricultural Land Reserve.
Our students, parents, and teachers have tended the land from afar. Groups of children have cleared invasive species, planted and sold pumpkins and veggies each season, picked rocks, mended fences, and fixed up the stables with new paint. They have strengthened the paddocks and fixed up the riding ring. We have worked with the Mid-Island Vintage Tractor Club, who have kindly plowed and disced the field for us, to prepare the market garden. Each year we sell the vegetables to the Tofino Culinary Guild.
This year the market garden production includes potatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, winter squash, pumpkins, ornamental squash, corn, kale, garlic, and other vegetable and perennial crops such as berries and herbs. One section of the garden has been put into a buckwheat cover crop to attract pollinators and revive the soil.
A Focus on Environment and Sustainability
Being light on the land and protecting our natural resources is very important to Discover Montessori School. We don't just talk the talk, we walk it, and we live it. As such, we have designed the school building with the environment at the forefront of every decision we make.
We have designed to a CaGBC Zero Carbon Standard and aim to become the first zero carbon school to be built in BC!
This means that we will evaluate and measure our impact and carbon footprint at every stage of the development, from the design through to the subsequent operation and lifecycle analysis of the building.
We hope that the DMS Farm School Campus will become a model school and an example of how an environmentally sustainable campus can be a creative, inviting, inspiring and wondrous space for children to learn. We want to show that a zero carbon approach can be affordable, replicable, and sustainable for generations to come.
The DMS Farm School plan involves renovating an existing building and constructing a new building with features that meet our environmental goals. To meet our environmental objectives we have for example, chosen not to use to a concrete slab foundation in order to reduce the embodied & operational carbon, as well as to allow rain water to flow naturally through the earth. We are building in a modular way to reduce construction waste and provide removability. Our landscape plan is drought tolerant and makes use of recycled materials that would otherwise end up in the land-fill. Fixtures will be low flow. Water will be harvested and stored for future irrigation use. International Dark Sky Association approved exterior lighting will be used. Heating and cooling will be energy efficient and renewable. The lands will be regenerated and revegetated. Agriculture will be expanded with an eye to permaculture and protection. The creek and riparian zones will be improved, invasive species removed, and wildlife habitat will be restored.
The landscape design plan is another key feature of the project. It is being designed by a team of local landscape architects passionate about environmental sustainability and education. Participating in a 5 year UBC study on children and outdoor play, the design team has a deep understanding of how the prepared outdoor environment can shape the child's interactions and experiences outside. Seven key elements were identified, and will be used to create interesting and developmentally appropriate natural outdoor classrooms and play spaces. These elements include character, context, connectivity, change, chance, clarity and challenge. Our outdoor spaces will be full of wonder and learning, buzzing with happy children, insects, and wildlife! We can't wait to see the final design.
We await the next steps in the rezoning process and hope to break ground in the Fall of 2021. We hope for an opening date of Fall/Winter 2022. (subject to change)