A Fair from a Garden from a SEED

by Dan Mullins

Westpark’s SEED (formerly known as Daycare) Program recently held their Harvest Sale benefitting the Montreal Children’s Hospital and the West Island Women’s Shelter. The sale, artfully arranged and staffed by polite and practiced students, offered all sorts of lovely (and often good-smelling) things, such as lavender-scented playdough, organic dehydrated herbs, organic lemon balm and mint tea bags.

While a team effort by the entire SEED program and larger Westpark community makes the sale possible, Bessie Tsiros, a Westpark Daycare Educator, is a major driving force. “Gardening is a passion of mine,” she explained. In keeping with the SEED philosophy, students learn a wide variety of interconnected information and skills.

Asked how the project came about, Ms. Tsiros explained the “when pandemic restrictions started to ease, but parents were still not allowed in the building, the SEED educators thought they could sell the products from our garden. A mixture of arts and crafts pertaining to a garden, and products coming directly from it. Advertising and marketing – life skills and entrepreneurship.”

Students from Grades 4 through 6 staffed the tables, and were knowledgeable about the benefits of their products, as well as how they were made and even how the ingredients were grown, as they were part of the process!

Montana, a student in Grade 6, explained how the Lemon Balm tea was made. “Kindergartners took all the lemon balm leaves and they put them in a bowl and crush it up,” she said. “And we packaged it!”

Citrus soap, rosemary soap, lavender-oat soap, lavender candles, cooling peppermint foot soaps (perfect for a spa day), lavender sachets, lavender bath salts, tzatziki sauce and mint sugar were just a few of the other products on offer.

“We worked really hard on it,” said grade 5 student Nora. “It makes me happy to do this.”

Margaret Gogoris, Westapark’s Technician, who runs the SEED program, pointed out the Westpark Daycare Cookbook, which was also available for sale. A beautiful volume, it includes favourite recipes of Westpark staff members.

Under the supervision of Ms. Tsiros and the rest of the SEED staff, students grow spend time in the garden, growing the various ingredients required to make the products. Grade 4 student Clara explains that while it can be hard work, “we get to dirty our hands a bit and it’s really fun, helping like the garden and seeing it grow.”

Along with gardening, arts, entrepreneurial, and social skills, students learn the benefits of the various handpicked herbs grown without herbicides or pesticides in the Westpark garden.

Ms. Tsiros approves of the board-wide change of names from simply daycare to the SEED program, which stands for Social Educational Extended Day. “The change of name to SEED accurately reflects what we’re doing,” she says.

“I’m very glad that the educational aspects of the program are being recognized.” As part of this project, for example, “we talk about people skills and approaching people and being enthusiastic about what we’re selling, being polite and our body language,” said Ms. Tsiros.

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