The process for creating the garden space started in December 2013 when Dr. Mindy Carter and a working group of interested faculty and staff discussed the possibilities of a departmental garden to link an outdoor space to the Bachelor's of Education program while providing a serene environment for students, faculty, and staff.


In 2014, Mindy and Master of Education students Chris Nixon and Alexandra Taylor met multiple times with the Associate Dean of Infrastructure, the McGill grounds team and horticulturalists to determine where the garden could be located. The working group also met to envision what the garden would look like during this planning period. When we found that there was no possible space identified for the 2014 planting season, we waited until the next year (2015) to continue the process again. During this time, Mindy applied for and was awarded funding from the McGill Office of Sustainability.


Chris, Alex and Mindy continued to meet with McGill staff to create the space behind Coach House for the McGill Outdoor Learning Space. Then, in spring 2015 many of the people from the working group came to help Chris (who was hired with funding from the McGill Office of Sustainability) plant the first garden. Finally, in the spring of 2015, McGill’s outdoor began with the construction of a community garden located between Coach House and Duggan House (and between the streets of Peel and McTavish). In the fall of 2015, Mitchell began working on the garden and donated a composter as community garden yielded a substantial fall harvest. 


Two young men break ground with shovels, a perimeter marks the dimensions of a future garden box.

In 2016, Mitchell was awarded three different grants and expanded the space (physically and digitally) to help McGill, local schools, and the surrounding communities access curricular content for taking learning outdoors. Smaller satellite projects were developed in collaboration with Dr. Naomi Nichols, and Studio No Bad Sound. During this time, Khaleem Curtis and Angelo Bachtad were hired to support the new initiatives. From a pedagogical standpoint, this space has grown to allow faculty, staff, students, and pre-service teachers, to become more familiar and confident with the possibilities and importance of using the outdoors, school grounds, and local neighbourhoods as sites of inquiry. Gardening was incorported into work being done with youth in the community to further encourage garden-based learning for sustainable development. 




A blue and pink hammock hangs on two trees over green grass and a brown building in the background.


In the summer of 2017, McGill doctoral student Jayne Malenfant was hired to further support our work. We also hired Foster Salpeter (an undergraduate student from Columbia University) and built ties with the Benoît Labre House (a drop-in/day centre) and worked closely with participants in their programs to grow food in their own garden (and utilize produce from our McGill garden) to use in their kitchens. 






Both the gardens and the team have expanded immensely. Mitchell McLarnon was awarded a Canada Youth Summer Jobs grant with the Benedict Labre House, which has allowed the hiring six new employees. In the spring of 2018, Mitchell installed a rain barrel and purchased a beehive. We continue to build on our existing relationships, including supporting cross-curricular learning in community gardening spaces in schools and organizations. This summer we have established or are supporting six community gardens (McGill Faculty of Education, Westmount Park Elementary School, Benedict Labre House, Dans La Rue, Studio No Bad Sound, and the Roslyn Robertson Herb and Scent garden) and increasing opportunities for digital, participatory and arts-based learning opportunities. Furthermore, P.E.Trudeau/Vanier Scholar, Jayne Malenfant, started an anarchist Free Skool that has allowed many community members--of all ages--to exchange ideas and disrupt the traditional transmission-based and hierarchal education model too often employed in higher education. And each Wednesday, Aron Rosenberg has been facilitating: Temporary Autonomous Zines: Creative Writing and Grassroots Publishing from the Garden. For more information, please contact mitchell.mclarnon [at] mcgill.ca (subject: Garden) (Mitchell), jayne.malenfant [at] mail.mcgill.ca (subject: Free%20Skool) (Jayne), or aron.rosenberg [at] mail.mcgill.ca (subject: TAZ) (Aron)

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