With a deep breath I trucked off to a community meeting last night on Garibaldi school (ugghh meetings). Again there seemed to be more people in the room than elementary students who currently attend- a pretty good indication of the importance of this small school to our ‘hood.
Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House was there ready and poised to take the lead on a proposal for a multi-use facility- strong start programs, preschool, literacy programs, after-school care etc. But I think there was a strong sense that we need something else in the mix whether it’s an immersion program or fine arts or what???
I expressed some cynicism about whether the board would support any type of special programming because of costs. But that aside, I can’t help thinking things like “what if Garibaldi was an annex of Hastings, instead of Nelson and offered K-4 French Immersion?” Students could walk to Hastings for the library experience. Enrollment problem solved.
Someone last night mentioned how Fine Arts programming could provide such a creative focus for students from diverse linguistic backgrounds. Yes! I think a community gardening program could serve the same kind of purpose. I don’t meet anyone these days that doubts that our children are growing up in uncertain times and one of the strengths of this community is the incredible knowledge of urban food production.
But so many of the folks I see out gardening in my prowls through the back-alleys are elders. How do we share this knowledge? Wouldn’t it be great to have our local school be a venue for that kind of inter-generational learning? This neighbourhood could go on the map as a model for urban food sovereignty (a term I learned this weekend at the permaculture meet-up on Cortes Island and even more radical than the concept of “food security”.)
Another idea bandied about which I think has some legs is a home learning support centre or some kind of version of the democratic, parent participation model that Windsor House offers in North Van. Apparently our home learners travel to New Westminster for support now. This is a neighbourhood incredibly rich in folk who support alternative educational models. What kind of energy could these folk lend the process?
Really I want it all. I want a warm and engaging place that supports young children and their families (check), a school that offers a lively, creative arts education (the arts are all about creative problem-solving and by do we need a little of that in this world), a place that celebrates and suports linguistic diversity and a magical garden where kids and elders meet. Is a full immersion program the only way my unilingual boy can get a strong start on a second language? Could that happen via parent-participation, community programs, an after-school program or such?
The school grounds could provide a gathering place for this community: an annual neighbourhood backyard garden farmer’s market? A perennial food and medicinal plant exchange in the early spring? A harvest festival in the early fall? (Maybe an event in mid-Feb at the school would be a good way of bringing the community together at Garibaldi?)
It’s a testimony to this school community that they can inspire such dreams in me. Whatever the future holds, there is some rich soil to grow in and our aim should be to nourish what’s already working incredibly well here.