Within New Brunswick, twenty-six percent of youth are overweight and are at increased risk of respiratory problems, fractures, insulin resistance, hypertension and early markers of cardiovascular disease, along with many other mental and social ailments. Contributing factors include socioeconomic status, ethnicity, community characteristics and most important, inadequate diet and physical inactivity (Obesity in New Brunswick, 2012). There have been many programs designed and implemented to improve youth obesity yet youth still lack the knowledge to improve their situations and sustain a healthy lifestyle. The “Ready, Set, Grow” initiative aims to implement innovative autonomic greenhouses within schools that will stem a whole new way of learning through horticulture.
School greenhouse initiatives have the potential to educate youth on self-sustainability, awareness about the environment, climatic changes and agriculture all while emphasizing the importance of healthy dietary behaviors. Incorporating an interactive hands on learning experience such as Ready, Set, Grow coincides with the 2011 Canadian Governments initiative “framework for action to promote healthy weights” which made childhood obesity a priority (Obesity in New Brunswick, 2012). Blending horticulture and the school curriculum has already proven to have many benefits in subjects such as health, science and biology. A pilot greenhouse based at St.Francis School in Harbour Grace, Newfoundland highlighted the enrichment of school culture, community inclusion and provided exposure to healthy foods (Doyle, 2014). In addition, the program promoted new academic achievements and experimental learning.
With regards to educational school greenhouses, it is imperative that there be clear leadership and oversight and that the detailed goals and principles illustrated for the greenhouse are determined prior to construction (Bede, 2011). It is suggested that the department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries partner with Education and Early Childhood Development in order to officiate individuals to spear head the greenhouse initiative. Along with promoting healthy living and individuals within the school, this project could play a key role in promoting health to youth and adults throughout Fredericton’s communities.
The first big step is building a greenhouse at one of the middle schools within Fredericton for a five-year trial period. The design of the greenhouse must compliment a creative environment suited for educational purposes. Areas large enough for small gatherings for teaching planting methods would be desirable. Specifically, a high-tunnel design, positioned strategically on school grounds in order to obtain natural solar heating, and allowing for mechanical systems such as irrigation and ventilation is ideal (Runkle, Eric, Both, 2011). Greenhouse maintenance will be dependent on the school and community. During the weeks that school is not in session, programs such as co-op opportunities, internships, or summer camps prove resourceful for continuation of maintenance and utilizing the greenhouse’s potential during its peak season.
Initial cost estimates for such a project is largely dependent on the financing allotted by the government and fundraising within the schools and communities. A base-line cost for the construction of a Solar Year-Round Greenhouse would be $50,000 dependent on the technology used to sustain heating, cooling and irrigation. Maintenance costs for the project would include one dedicated employee educated in horticulture and facility upkeep and basic materials required for production and physical maintenance for the structure. A well-designed structure, built with new age sustainable systems is critical to effectively realize a long-term future of agricultural prosperity and provide a positive educational environment.
Bede, P. N. (2011). How Eating “Green” Impacts the Environment: Reduce your carbon footprint in the world with these mindful eating and purchasing practices. IDEA Fitness Journal, 8(4), 59-61.
Cold Climate greenhouse resource: A guidebook for designing and building a cold-climate greenhouse. Date accessed: Feb.9, 2015. URL:http://www.extension.umn.edu/rsdp/community-and-local-food/production-resources/docs/cold-climate-greenhouse-resource.pdf
Doyle, E. (2014). The Benefits and Sustainability of school gardens: A Case Study of St. Francis School Greenhouse. The Harris Centre Memorial University. Retrieved from http://www.mun.ca/harriscentre/reports/arf/2012/12-13-TSP-Final-Doyle.pdf
New Brunswick Health Indicators. (2012). Obesity in New Brunswick, (5), 1-5.
Runkle, Eric and A.J. Both. 2011. “Greenhouse Energy Conservation Strategies.” Extension Bulletin E-3160. Michigan University Extension. (Runkle and Both 2011, 1-16)
Statistics Canada: Canadian Community Health Survey. Date Accessed: Feb. 9, 2015. URL:http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/140612/dq140612b-eng.htm