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Realtor Laura McBride creates the Edible Classroom for kids

Edible Classroom is a four-season, indoor gardening project for elementary school students created by Laura McBride, a Realtor with Sutton Group – Heritage Realty in Ajax, Ont. Since 2015, she has been getting her hands dirty along with students as they learn the basics of botany, permaculture, carpentry, irrigation and cooking while applying math, art, health and science concepts.

“I have had only positive feedback,” says McBride. “Teachers, students, parents, school administrators and community members have all rallied around the project with support, enthusiasm and love.”

Before beginning her real estate career 17 years ago, McBride studied horticulture and landscape technology at Humber College and interior design at Sheridan College. That specialized training as well as her own children inspired the Edible Classroom.

“My first son Miles was a micro-preemie, born at 25 weeks, and my husband Robin and I recognized very early on that he benefited greatly from alternative, hands-on learning,” she says. “When my second son, Fionn, was in Grade 5, I noticed how limited the hands-on learning was in the curriculum. I came up with a plan and approached a truly inspired educator named Robyn Hadder McMillan with DDSB, who helped me create the first program applying my ideas in the subjects of art, health and math.”

With Edible Classroom, students learn to grow food and explore other life skills such as building wooden planters, conceiving simple irrigation systems, creating art from natural elements (such as beet juice) and leading community engagement by cooking for others. The deeper benefits, however, are empowerment, self confidence, reduced stress and a direct connection to nature.

“So many children have never had the freedom to get their hands dirty, so in this program the first things they learn are ‘Dirt doesn’t hurt’ and ‘Soil makes you smart.’ Children who were afraid to touch dirt learn to dig in with confidence and see the power they have to grow their own garden,” says McBride.

She says she made those discoveries when she was only five; her uncle Don taught her to plant carrots by patiently demonstrating how to make the perfect space between seeds and find the ideal planting depth by using her fingers as measuring tools. Now she loves inspiring the next generation of green thumbs.