It's not easy growing giant pumpkins; the kids of Pemberton Secondary School (PSS) can attest to that.
To begin, giant pumpkins need a "giant" space to grow. Then, just imagine the difficulties of harvesting them, getting them out of the ground and moving them. After all that, what do you do with these giant inedible vegetable wonders?
Such are some of the giant pumpkin challenges.
But PSS students have found ways around that, growing two giant pumpkins in their ever-expanding school garden this year. The pumpkins are now on display in the school common area where people are invited to get their photos taken, with media relations students behind the lens. In the coming days the giant pumpkins will be sold to Whistler hotels. But not before the weigh in and the naming contest.
These large pumpkins are just a very small part of the school-wide, multi-faceted project that has students involved in all aspects of gardening, from planting the seeds, to harvesting the organic crops, to creating food for the school cafeteria, to selling their produce. It wouldn't be possible without the support of the local community including a generous financial contribution from the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation.
"We're working towards creating a self-sustaining program," said farmer and garden project leader James Moch, the driving force behind the school program.
"We're not a full mainstream curriculum course... so we work with different classes that have interest or it fits into their curriculum."
Like Daryl Treadway's Grade 8/9 Foods class. The fridges in that class are stocked full of chopped frozen peaches and grated squash and homemade Tzatziki sauce in preparation of the year ahead when students in another class will prepare meals for the school cafeteria. From garden to plate within a few hundred steps.
This is the government's project-based learning in action, part of the new education curriculum in B.C. focusing on collaboration, critical thinking and communications skills.
This week the government announced a $1 million fund to support teacher training as well as dedicated time worth $100 million over three years so teachers can prepare for the new curriculum.
Treadway said the kids respond positively to this kind of project based learning.
"They can see the end result," he said. "They're seeing that we're taking a garden and turning it into delicious healthy food that they can be cooking on their own at home as well. There's a lot of authenticity to what we're doing. It's tactile, hands on and so instead of (learning) the theory, but not being able to apply it, we are applying what we're learning as we go, and the kids become much more engaged in their learning and take it home with them."
The proof is in the smiles as the sun shines down on the students this week.
Grade 8 student Ajah Newsome pulls leaks from the garden as her classmates work around her, some cleaning the tangle of stalks left behind by the two giant pumpkins, others cutting rhubarb, and others collecting basil seeds in the greenhouse.
And the best part of all?
"Getting your hands really dirty!" said Newsome.
The last chance to get a photo on the giant pumpkins is Friday, Oct. 2 at the Pemberton Secondary School from 9 to 10 a.m. Photos are by donation and students will take the photos and produce a laminate copy.