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Nine years ago, thanks to a small team of supportive parents, WSCS established a school garden, which has become a powerful teaching tool in our learning landscape. Over the years, it has become a wonderful way to use the schoolyard as a classroom, reconnect students with God’s created world, and learn where food comes from. 

Thanks to God’s blessing through community support at the February 2020 school auction WSCS raised funds for our Outdoor Education program, with the majority of the funds going towards building a greenhouse on our campus.  This greenhouse will serve to increase the growing season providing more access to fresh fruits and veggies to our daycare, community, and local Northwest Food Pantry. We have a professional contractor that will be overseeing the structure’s high-quality construction. In addition, we continue to partner with Blandford Nature Center Farm as we grow from their expertise. 

Harvesting potatoes from the school garden this fall!

We had hoped to expedite the greenhouse construction. It would have been an easier road if we could have obtained a quick permit. Yet, it seems like there is something bigger happening. We can see that God is a work and making a way. We’d appreciate your prayers as we work to grow this vision – that’s shared by others in our community. 

WSCS is working to support the efforts of the Urban Agriculture Committee, as there’s a need to change city policy to allow for growing structures. The good news is that thanks to the work of this committee, there is a plan in place to present urban agriculture policy recommendations to the city.  The sad news is as we have been navigating this path, it has taken us some time to navigate the process. Keep reading, there’s a way that you can help!

Even though this wouldn’t have been the path of our choosing, we’re excited to be working towards positive change in our city. We’re hoping to shine a light for Jesus as we work with others in our community. 

Veggies from the school garden on their way to Northwest Food Pantry
  • Last year our middle school 8th-grade social studies students applied their content standards as they learned more about our local government, zoning laws, and how citizens work to serve on these boards. Our students are a part of positive change as they team up with others to offer their own citizen input and make recommendations to the City Commission.
  • WSCS now offers FREE hot lunch meals every day as part of the National School Lunch Program as we’re partnering with Grand Rapids Christian Schools. As our lunch program goes into effect, we’re planning to evaluate ways to grow crop production that could provide the students’ lunches with access to their schoolyard fresh vegetables. 
  • We’re creating math materials to equip students to plan the school garden’s crop production that blesses our school community as well as the Northwest Food Pantry. 

We’ll be sure to keep you posted on the developing details. You can also get involved. Visit the Urban Agriculture Committee Webpage and give feedback for the needed policy updates. This would be a great opportunity to put our students’ writing skills to use. Imagine flooding the city’s mailbox with the student voices asking for  Also, let’s flood the city with notes to encourage them to take this issue to a needed vote. 

Let’s write some letters! Here’s a great templateto get started. 

Community members can contact the Planning Department via email at [email protected] or snail mail at 1120 Monroe Ave NW 3rd Floor Grand Rapids 49503.

Here are some talking points to assist in the letter writing process: 

  1. We’re advocating for changes to the zoning requirements to give educational institutions more flexibility in affordable accessory structures that support agriculture (poly side structures rather than glass greenhouses, like you mention below). 
  2. Adding a greenhouse will make it possible to engage students to learn about food production, etc. during the school year. Right now our garden’s main production season happens during the summer when most students are away from the campus.
  3. Rather than an expensive glass greenhouse, we’re working to create an affordable and effective structure that will inspire without the major cost barrier.
  4. Students can share what they love about our school garden and how they hope it can grow to bless others in the future. Each year we donate crops to our local food pantry and the greenhouse would bring more local fresh veggies to others in our community.
WSCS 4th Grade Students with the letters they wrote and mailed to the Planning Department!

At this point, we have not received a timeline from the Planning Department about how soon these policy changes might be implemented. This is a real-world opportunity that our students can put their skills to use to create positive change. Imagine our city getting a pile of letters on this issue! 

Praying that the Lord would make a way and He would be our ever-present help through this need. 

Habakkuk 2:3 For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

Galatians 6:9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Read more: Growing Hearts & Minds in the School Garden