10 Things I Learned from Students at Field Trips

By Andrea Lucy, Experiential Learning Program Lead  

I’ve been a big kid at Fresh Roots’ field trips this year. While my role with Fresh Roots is teaching students visiting our farms for field trips, the students have wowed and amazed me with what they know and experience! Here are a few of the many things local elementary students taught me this spring:


1. You’re never too old to do arts and crafts.

Young student sitting down cross legged on the grass with a hammer pounding leaf pigments onto a napkin.

With a little light pounding, the pigment from leaves or flowers transfers onto cloth to make a beautiful, nature-inspired design! Not to mention it smells great!


2. Bugs are amazing!
Student in blue mask and shirt holding a large red worm in their hand.

We’ve had so much fun looking up close at ladybugs, bees, worms and pillbugs. Students taught me wasps are accidental pollinators and worms are earth helpers!


3. Native plants are a world of wonder, for food, medicine, clothing, and tools.

There’s so much to learn about the native biodiversity of this land. We’ve been tasting some of these plants, including wild rose, learning about how they’re packed full of nutrients and vitamins. In autumn, this plant will grow rose hips. They are a fruit that has nearly 8x the amount of vitamin C compared to oranges!


4. Many hands make light work.

Bundles of purple sage flowers hanging on a clothes line against a grey wall.

Students helped harvest nearly 50 bundles of sage flowers for CSA boxes. They hung the flowers upside down to dry them for use in teas.


5. A little quiet time is relaxing and recharging.

Two students wearing masks have their heads bend over focusing on writing on clipboards. Behind them is a bed of tall garlic growing, a couple of trees, and the brick exterior of Vancouver Technical Secondary School

The farm offers a quiet break from the hustle and bustle of the city. Here, students are taking a quiet moment to imagine what the farm looked like in the past, present, and into the future. 


6. There is nothing more lush or plush than laying on a bed of clover

Person in orange shirt and black pants laying down in a field of clover

So lush and plush; perfect for making clover angels. Just mind the bees pollinating the flowers! 🐝


7. It doesn’t have to be complex to be fun.

Young student with pink glasses, black hair in a ponytail, and blue shirt crouched down by a garden bed filled with soil. In the kid's hand is a pillbug curled up in a small ball. The kid is smiling. In the soil is a trowel.

Often the most fun and educational activities were the ones with the fewest instructions. For instance, planting seeds and learning what they need to grow. Then, months later, identifying all the parts of that same now grown-up plant. Another favourite at Fresh Roots is digging and looking for creatures living in the soil. Can you spot the pillbug curled up in a ball?


8. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, in our world is connected together. 

Over the spring, we thought about the many complex connections in our food system and ecosystem. In the activity shown above, we learned how many of the vegetables we eat were domesticated from the same plants. We thought about how interconnected we, as humans, are to these plants, and to the soil, pollinators, water, and sun these plants rely on.


9. Spending time outside with nature supports your well-being.

Take a deep breath in and out. There’s nothing like blue skies over David Thompson Secondary, growing plants, and a bit of sun to relax.


10. Today’s children give me hope for tomorrow.

Five young students pictured on a sunny day kneeling over garden beds with a few small squash plants with yellow flowers.

The students we’ve met on the field trips are inspiring. They are caring, respectful, full of wonder, and recognize the importance of the natural world. They are conscientious and recognize the environment as life-giving.


If you also want to learn vicariously through children’s experiences, we have a few more spots open in Camp Fresh Roots for our last MidiCamp (August 30-September 1). After that, we’re looking forward to welcoming classes back on the farm for another year of learning and growing.


With gratitude,



Spotlight on Scientists: Jacelyn Shu

By Vivian Cheung, Operations Coordinator

Promotional poster for Science Odyssey. The photo depicts a person's head opening to reveal drawn science symbols, such as a rocket ship and atom. The text reads "Science Odyssey. Join the Adventure! May 1-16, 2020" To celebrate this year’s Science Odyssey, Canada’s biggest science and technology festival, we are highlighting amazing scientists from across the country! Young adult staff members at Fresh Roots interviewed inspiring individuals contributing to science, to learn more about their personal and professional journey, career, and what advice they have for youth. These scientists surprise and delight us with their unique topics and backgrounds, and the unexpected ways their work connects back to healthy food systems and a healthy environment. 


Interview with Jacelyn Shu

Jacelyn is a biologist and scientific illustrator. She completed both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree at the University of British Columbia. She continues to be involved in the Department of Zoology as a lab manager and research technician in the Mank Lab. In addition to her managerial duties to support her lab’s research on guppies and sex chromosomes, her interests in the art and communication side of science has led her to be involved in today’s cutting-edge research through making figures for scientific publications and presentations. For Jacelyn, she enjoys translating complex scientific concepts into simple diagrams and help with turning the gruelling hours of data collection and analysis into a compelling narrative that can be shared with others in a visually appealing manner. See more of her work on her website Jacelyn Designs.



We have a tradition at Fresh Roots of starting our conversations with this question: What vegetable do you feel like today?

Today I feel like a carrot. Stubby and covered in dirt, but could still be sweet.

Doug Fudge
Gosline Lecture, UBC, 2018


Can you describe your work as a biologist and scientific illustrator? 

By day, I wrangle guppies! My lab has about 6,000 fish that I am responsible for taking care of. I also support my labmates in their research, which a lot of the time means helping with their research projects, ordering supplies, doing administrative work, or taking care of the finances.

When all this technical stuff is done, I get to do more of the fun and creative things. I designed my lab’s logo, ran a course on Adobe Illustrator, and produced a bunch of figures for the papers coming out of my lab. I also started freelancing my science illustration services, and have produced figures and illustrations for other scientists as well.

When water contains toxins, these toxins can be taken up by fish at the gills, causing a physiological cascade that results in cardiovascular collapse.
McCormick, S. D., Schultz, E and Brauner, C.J. 2021. Methods in Fish Biology, American Fisheries Society. In Press.


What was your path to becoming a biologist and scientific illustrator?

I started becoming involved in research in my third year of my undergraduate degree, and did an Honours research project in a lab that I would later continue to do my Master’s degree in. After my Master’s, I decided that I enjoyed research and wanted to stay involved but, but didn’t think pursuing academia was the right path for me.

I was very fortunate to find a job as a lab manager/research technician with my current lab and Principal Investigator Judith Mank. I’ve always enjoyed the behind-the-scenes roles, and I like being able to support my labmates with their research, watch it unfold and take form, then help to communicate the final result.

My path to being a science illustrator is a bit less straightforward and is still definitely in its earlier stages. Throughout my degrees, especially during guest lectures or research seminars, I would take notes in the form of doodles to keep myself entertained. I also learned how to use Adobe Illustrator in one of my graduate courses, and spent just as much time making my presentation figures for talks and seminars as I did on the content itself. My Master’s supervisor noticed that I enjoyed drawing sciency things, and asked me if I wanted to make some figures for his lecture material and some of his publications. I agreed, and since then, I’ve been drawing people’s science wherever I can.

(1) An experimental setup used by Yvonne Dzal. The divided chamber allows Yvonne to measure whole-body respiration and ventilation in little brown bats, contributing to her research on the effect of white-nose syndrome. This figure was recently published in a review in Conservation Physiology. (2) Another of Yvonne’s experimental setups, this one used to measure whole-body respiration. You can read more about Yvonne’s work here.


What motivates you to keep doing what you do? 

I’ve always enjoyed nature and biology, and there’s so much about the world we know, but so much we still don’t know. My favourite thing about my current positions as a lab manager/research technician, as well as a science illustrator is that I get to dip my toes into a bunch of different research areas. It’s inspiring and humbling because there’s so much cool stuff happening on the frontiers of science, and I get to play a small part in investigating the big research questions that are being asked and answered in our current day and age.

As a science illustrator, I also see the importance of what I do. I feel like so much cool and current research goes unnoticed by 99% of the population because most of us are not well-versed enough to understand exactly what it means, and there is often so much jargon and background to wade through. Simplifying and illustrating the research is a great way to make it more appealing and more easily understandable.

Trinidadian guppies (Poecilia reticulata) vary greatly in colour patterns among males. In particular, two main competing selection pressures have resulted in the same colour phenomenon in multiple river systems. Downstream, high predation results in selection against bright colours that are easily seen by predators; as a result, males are duller. Upstream, there are fewer predators, and sexual selection by female choice favours more brightly coloured males. The Mank Lab studies the genetic basis for colour and sexual dimorphism in these guppies.


How does your work relate to food systems or the environment?

No obvious, direct link, but everything is connected somehow! My lab does basic research on guppies and sex chromosomes, so that is less applied than some other research like climate change or food availability, but no less important (we can discuss the importance of basic research another day). As an illustrator, I get to work with a whole bunch of different projects, but so far no food system stuff or environmental stuff yet. Would be fun though!


What advice would you give to your younger self, or to youth today? 

Success in science doesn’t have to follow the three paths of a doctor, professor, or engineer that are so often preached to budding scientists. These are great professions, but far from the only options. I would say don’t limit yourself, try different things, see what you like, and don’t try to rush the process.


from a talk given by Eleanor Caves at Evolution 2019


Click here to see the full list of Science Odyssey activities


Twitter: @Sci_Od

Instagram: @Sci_Od

Hashtag: #OdySci


Spotlight on Scientists: Dr. Susan Gerofsky

By Nicole Bruce, SOYL Lead Facilitator

Promotional poster for Science Odyssey. The photo depicts a person's head opening to reveal drawn science symbols, such as a rocket ship and atom. The text reads "Science Odyssey. Join the Adventure! May 1-16, 2020" To celebrate this year’s Science Odyssey, Canada’s biggest science and technology festival, we are highlighting amazing scientists from across the country! Young adult staff members at Fresh Roots interviewed inspiring individuals contributing to science, to learn more about their personal and professional journey, career, and what advice they have for youth. These scientists surprise and delight us with their unique topics and backgrounds, and the unexpected ways their work connects back to healthy food systems and a healthy environment. 


Interview with Dr. Susan Gerofsky

Headshot of Dr. Susan Gerofsky smiling at the camera. Wearing a black shirt, red scarf, red glasses and red headband

Susan Gerofsky is an Associate Professor of Mathematics Education and Environmental Education in the Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Her interdisciplinary research is in embodied, multisensory, multimodal mathematics education through the arts, movement, gesture and voice. She works in curriculum studies, environmental garden-based education, the language and genres of mathematics education, and media theory. Dr. Gerofsky is academic advisor and co-founder of the UBC Orchard Garden, a student-led campus learning garden. She is active as a mathematics educator, poet, playwright, musician and filmmaker, and works with dance and fibre arts. You’ll often find her cycling around town with a baritone horn or an accordion.



We have a tradition at Fresh Roots of starting our conversations with this question: What vegetable do you feel like today?

I have to say bok choy because I just picked some and they were so fresh. I feel like I grew half an inch being here with the Fresh Roots team in this beautiful place and having this new food springing forth again. There’s so much hope and life there.


Can you describe your work as an educator? 

I’m an Associate Professor of Mathematics Education and Environmental Education at the University of British Columbia (UBC), where I’ve been for 16 years now. I teach new teachers in the Bachelor of Education program, specifically secondary math, physics and computer science, as well as graduate students, many of whom have teaching experience and are doing research in education.


I’m a co-founder with some graduate students, including Julia Ostertag, of the UBC Orchard Garden. That’s how I came to be an environmental educator. The Orchard Garden, founded around 2010, is a cross-faculty teaching and learning garden on UBC’s central campus, including the Faculties of Education and Land and Food Systems, with participation from Landscape Architecture and Forestry. From the Education side of things, we wanted to make a place where new teachers could experiment with teaching across the curriculum, with the garden as a co-teacher. How can you help students learn in and with the garden in a role as a teacher of history, poetry, math, art, music or any subject? How can you learn outside in a way that helps you and your students be aware of our more-than-human kin: the plants, birds, insects and other critters, rocks, rain and sky? How can we learn together with an understanding that we are part of whole ecosystems and the world? From a Land and Food Systems point of view, many students are longing for hands-on experience to experiment with growing and harvesting food organically and caring for the soil. Landscape Architecture students need opportunities to design with the natural world, and the Forestry students we work with are interested in urban food forests, the mycorrhizal communication systems within forests and other very interesting topics.


What was your path to becoming an educator?

As a child growing up in Hamilton, Ontario, I was very connected with the outdoors. My Dad took us for walks and adventures in the woods, bike rides, canoe trips, and all kinds of outdoor experiences. We always had garden beds around the house, and I was very keen to grow vegetables. From the age of about seven or eight, I had my own little garden patch. I would browse through the seed catalogues in the winter, and carefully choose what I was going to plant. I loved growing things that you could eat, and things that were beautiful and fascinating, like sunflowers and morning glories that would respond to the sun. It was just wonderful to have that little garden, and woods, rivers and lakes nearby.


Before my current job, I worked as a picture and sound editor in the film industry, and then taught adult education and secondary schools. In my first year of high school teaching at Vancouver Technical Secondary School (which now has another Fresh Roots schoolyard farm), I realized there was nowhere for the kids to be outside, even though the school has a huge campus. There were no rocks, logs, picnic tables or anything for kids to sit on outdoors. When I taught summer school in the stifling July heat, I didn’t want the kids to be inside for a four-hour class every day, but the only place we could use as an outdoor classroom was the very noisy front lawn of the school, facing a busy street. So I started a campaign for a school garden. We had parents, teachers, students, administrators and others all around the neighbourhood coming to weekly meetings to plan this garden. We had science students measuring where the shadow fell on our proposed courtyard garden and mapping where the rain went. We had drafting students creating 3D tours of our potential garden. Many people in the school and neighbourhood were involved.


Then they laid off all the new teachers in the district and shuffled them around. I got moved to a different school, which did have a nice school garden. The school garden project at Van Tech was halted when a few of us left the school. We were ready to make this garden, we had raised money for it, we had plans that had been approved by the school board, we had a landscape architect who had helped us draw up the plans — everything was ready to go, but then it got stalled, for 12 years! I live right near the school, and would walk by there every day, glance at this sterile concrete courtyard, and picture it green and leafy. Then, miraculously, some teachers still at the school kept the idea of the garden alive, and new teachers took up the campaign for a Van Tech school garden. They took our plans, refurbished them, and it happened!


What’s more, by the time I was at UBC, Mark Schutzbank, who was a graduate student in the Orchard Garden, joined together with Ilana Labow and got the Fresh Roots farm going at Van Tech. Now I get a CSA box from that schoolyard farm. It’s a full circle. There are other Fresh Roots connections: Galen Taylor-Jones was a student working at the UBC Orchard Garden; Tathali Urueta did her doctoral dissertation about the Orchard Garden and the UBC Farm. These gardens have become the basis for a really strong community all over Greater Vancouver and beyond. There has been a wonderful evolution of the whole idea of growing and eating healthy food at school, and learning curriculum outdoors with the living world in a school garden.


What motivates you to keep doing what you do? 

For me, the most uplifting experience is being part of an intergenerational community, discovering things about our world and finding joy in being together outdoors, learning together, and making and eating food together. There are all the unexpected things that happen when you have workshops and classes in the garden. All of a sudden there are eagles overhead, hummingbirds diving, a field mouse, an amazing rainbow over the garden [laughs], or it suddenly starts to rain. All the unexpected happenings become part of the learning and part of the curriculum. I remember one student teacher who was really keen to learn gardening, but who described herself growing up as “a Nintendo kid”, letting herself into the apartment with a latchkey on a string around her neck and playing Nintendo until her mom got home. She hadn’t had many opportunities to be outdoors, and couldn’t tell a carrot from lettuce growing in the garden at first, but she learned very quickly. When I see people go through that transformation, from wherever they’re starting from to a much greater degree of familiarity and knowledge, and knowing that they’re going to teach this to their students over the next 25 or 30 years as they teach, it seems to me there is plenty of hope for the world. Something very concrete we do right now may have a beneficial influence years into the future.


How does your work relate to food systems or the environment?

I see more and more that people live their lives inside looking at screens, out of touch with the world of living things that we are part of and that we depend on, and that’s all around us. I think if people get too far out of touch with what sustains us, we may start to jeopardize our existence on Earth and the endanger life on the planet. It’s really important that kids grow up with an embodied, sensory, knowledgeable, kinship way of relating to all life on Earth. Knowing where our food comes from, knowing what keeps us healthy and alive, and what keeps all the other beings on earth healthy and alive is so important, and kids only understand that through lots of experiential, outdoor learning.

School gardens are particularly great because you don’t have to rent a bus or buy special gear to get involved, as you might need to do for other kinds of outdoor adventures like camping, mountain climbing and kayaking. Those activities are wonderful and memorable, but they are often a once-a-year kind of experience for kids. The school garden can be there all the way through the year, even in the summertime. It’s right outside the doors of the school. It can bring observation and empathy of the world of living things to kids every day, though all the seasons of the year.

I have the opportunity to work with teachers who, over the course of their careers, reach thousands of students and their families. Everyone in our society cares and is affected by what happens in the schools. I’m really encouraged by the whole worldwide school gardening movement as a way to bring kids into relationship with the world. My own philosophy leans towards permaculture and organic gardening, working without pesticides, herbicides or heavy machinery. We can go with the flow of nature as much as we’re able to and not destroy soil, insects and pollinators. I’m keen to get rid of the concept of ‘weeds’, and to see all plants as potential allies, that generously offer us food, medicine, fibres and more.


What advice would you give to your younger self, or to youth today? 

We are living in a time of extremes like the climate crisis and the COVID pandemic. But if you have an awareness of history, most people’s lifetimes do have extreme times in them. I would advise young people to have hope, and to work in small and large ways to make this the world you want to live in. My shorthand motto for this is “Ride bikes, grow food, make music” — though of course, it might be a different configuration for each person (“Swim, storm watch, sketch”? “Sing, cook, go birdwatching”?) Connect with your friends and community and plan for a future of wellbeing, for our society, for individuals and for all our non-human kin. Through your senses, being aware of where you are and beginning to learn, you can have the most amazing moments of wonder and awe and joy, no matter what else is happening. The natural world keeps going and it’s incredibly beautiful and inspiring. So just let yourself be inspired.


Click here to see the full list of Science Odyssey activities


Twitter: @Sci_Od

Instagram: @Sci_Od

Hashtag: #OdySci

Sky, Sun, Seasons & Shadows: On May 11th 3:30-4:30pm PST, join Fresh Roots and Susan Gerofsky online to learn how we can use schoolyard farms to promote science education. Register at


Spotlight on Scientists: Dr. Hasina Samji

By Andrea Lucy, Experiential Learning Program Lead

Promotional poster for Science Odyssey. The photo depicts a person's head opening to reveal drawn science symbols, such as a rocket ship and atom. The text reads "Science Odyssey. Join the Adventure! May 1-16, 2020" To celebrate this year’s Science Odyssey, Canada’s biggest science and technology festival, we are highlighting amazing scientists from across the country! Young adult staff members at Fresh Roots interviewed inspiring individuals contributing to science, to learn more about their personal and professional journey, career, and what advice they have for youth. These scientists surprise and delight us with their unique topics and backgrounds, and the unexpected ways their work connects back to healthy food systems and a healthy environment. 


 Interview with Dr. Hasina Samji

Dr. A headshot of Dr. Hasina Samji posed outside, wearing a suit and smiling at the camera.Hasina Samji (she/her) is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University and a Senior Scientist at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control. She is an epidemiologist trained at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Dr. Samji leads the CHART Lab’s Youth Development Instrument (YDI), an interdisciplinary study measuring predictors of positive youth well-being, mental health, and development in high school students in collaboration with the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP-UBC), community, clinical and policy partners, and youth themselves. The YDI will identify skill-development and structural supports for mental illness prevention and positive trajectories for young people. She is also the co-Principal Investigator of the Personal Impacts of COVID-19 Survey (PICS) study in partnership with Anxiety Canada and BC Children’s Hospital to measure the population-level mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The PICS study is currently open to anyone over the age of 8 interested in participating. 


We have a tradition at Fresh Roots of starting our conversations with this question: What vegetable do you feel like today?

Well, I feel like today I’m channelling a beet, basically because I’m wearing a bright purple shirt. I chose to wear bright purple today because it’s been a little rainy, and I wanted something bright and fun.


Can you describe your work as an epidemiologist? 

[laughs] I laugh because up until last year, I used to get a lot of, “Oh, you’re an epidemiologist, that’s like a skin doctor, right?” I see how you got there, like epidermis? Yeah, okay, close. But now with the COVID pandemic, I don’t have to explain what an epidemiologist is as much. Broadly, it’s a person who looks at the distribution and determinants of disease in a population. What I like about epidemiology is it doesn’t just stop at measuring risk factors for disease, but also what can be done to improve prevention and control of these. This applies to not just diseases, but any kind of health outcomes. 

With the CHART Lab, what we’re looking at primarily is among young people, what are some of the positive factors that promote lifelong health? What are resilience factors for youth which protect against adversity? What are the experiences and resources that we can build upon to help youth thrive? To answer these questions, we look at individual-level factors such as emotional and social intelligence. I’m also very interested in structural factors. I’ve found youth to be quite underserved in services, especially mental health services. We do focus groups with young adults, and they say “We’re basically ignored unless we’re in crisis mode, and then people kind of pay some attention to us”. And I thought that’s really not fair. With the CHART Lab team, we work to improve access to services for young people, earlier in the lifecourse.


What was your path to becoming an epidemiologist and working in public health?

Initially, I wanted to work in international health, to go abroad and do international development work. Right after my undergraduate degree, I went to Karachi, Pakistan, where I initially knew no one, to volunteer at the Aga Khan University. One of my projects was to work with a community health center located in an urban slum environment, called a katchi abadi, where we held a cleanliness day. When we visited the slum there were bottles and plastic bags everywhere in the streets, but when you got invited into people’s homes, they were spotless. Keeping your home is important, but you also don’t want your kids playing in the garbage right outside your home. Kids were playing in muddy puddles that were not just mud. So, we held the cleanliness day in partnership with the community and local schools and we walked through the streets and cleaned them up. What was really positive from that experience was the mayor and community organizations were able to come together, not only to clean up the street. They were also able to negotiate a water pipeline that previously hadn’t gone through because it needed cooperation from many different partners. The cleanliness day event helped bring people together at a table and build that kind of community support. My experience in Karachi was really pivotal for learning about community engagement. 

I later did my PhD in infectious disease epidemiology and was really passionate about HIV at that point. I had volunteered after coming back from Karachi to Vancouver, on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside at an organization called Vancouver Native Health Society that provides HIV services for people who are Indigenous. That was incredibly eye-opening. I remember I went to a talk at BC Children’s Hospital about international and global health, and they said, “You want to do international health? You just need to look in your own backyard”. I thought, “Ah, yes, you are absolutely right.” There’s work that has to be done here as well and huge disparities in our local populations. 

There were lots of amazing experiences that shaped my path into working with underserved populations, including people living with HIV, people using drugs, and now with a focus on upstream prevention with children and youth. 


What motivates you to keep doing what you do? 

I’m always amazed at how there are such immense health inequities, even here in the context of tremendous wealth in comparison to other places., There still are huge gaps and people whose voices are not being heard. I’m lucky to be in a position where I can work collaboratively to make a difference.


How does your work relate to food systems or the environment?

We have a lot of interest in our team in looking at the climate crisis. We started with a paper that was a call to action looking at the mental health impacts of the climate crisis for young people. We followed that up with questions in our survey, the Youth Development Instrument (YDI), asking young people about the impacts of the climate crisis to their mental health. We asked them to rank problems in the world, and in Canada, and certainly, pollution and the climate crisis come out on top for young people. 

We’re also really interested in food security for young people, because no young person should go hungry. No one should go hungry, frankly. We also ask about eating habits, asking about whether they eat breakfast? Do they have five servings of fruits and vegetables daily? We want to know how young people are eating because that is one of the things that really sets people up for success, along with good sleep and positive social connections. It also makes you feel so much better when you’re eating well, exercising, getting outside. Do young people get a chance to go out in nature? Because we know that’s such an important coping mechanism.


What advice would you give to your younger self, or to youth today? 

I can answer for both young people and myself. Your job or your career is not going to be linear, and you shouldn’t expect it to be. Imagine you got your dream job right out of undergrad, or high school, or whatever your training may be, would you really want to do that for the next 50 years of your life? No, that would be incredibly boring! Remember, it’s not about getting to the end, it’s about what you learn along the way. When I was doing my undergraduate degree, Ruth Simmons, the first black female President of an Ivy League school, said “learning should be uncomfortable,” and that always stuck with me. If you’re not being challenged, you’re not growing.

I would also highly recommend young people to volunteer in different projects. For me, that was really invaluable in terms of learning what was it that interested me. Which populations do you want to work with? The planet is sort of a population [laughs]. Getting a sense of what motivates you is important to know, and you need to expose yourself to many different avenues. Talk to people. If there’s something that seems of interest to you, most people will be very open to meeting with you for coffee or a quick chat. My advice would be to start thinking about those things earlier. What’s next? What am I interested in? There are so many different career paths out there.


Is there anything else you would like to share? 

One of the reasons I’m so excited to work with young people is I’m constantly inspired by young people. We have a Youth Advisory Committee of 15 youth from across the province for the YDI, and I look forward to those meetings more than any other meeting I have. They bring so much energy and they know, in many cases, what challenges there are and how they should be addressed in such a straightforward way. One of the joys of my job now is getting to work directly with young people in our province, and getting to learn from them and collaborate with them.


Click here to see the full list of Science Odyssey activities


Twitter: @Sci_Od

Instagram: @Sci_Od

Hashtag: #OdySci

Sky, Sun, Seasons & Shadows: On May 11th 3:30-4:30pm PST, join Fresh Roots and Susan Gerofsky online to learn how we can use schoolyard farms to promote science education. Register at


Science Odyssey: Join the Adventure! (May 1 – 16, 2021)

You are invited to join Fresh Roots as we take part in Science Odyssey, a ten-day celebration of discovery and innovation that engages and inspires Canadians of all ages with activities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics!

Sky, Sun, Seasons & Shadows

  • Date: May 11, 2021
  • Time: 3:30 to 4:30 PM (PST)
  • Location: Online via Zoom
  • Description: How can we use schoolyard farms as a space for garden-based learning to promote science education? Susan Gerofsky – an associate professor at the University of British Columbia (UBC) with a background in mathematics and experiential education will walk us through a workshop filmed on one of the Fresh Roots Schoolyard Farms located at David Thompson Secondary School in Vancouver, BC. Targeted at elementary and high school educators, this online event will be recorded and presented over Zoom and hosted by Fresh Roots youth empowerment and experiential learning specialists with plenty of time for questions throughout!
  • Link to Register:

Spotlight on Scientists!

  • Date: May 1-16, 2021
  • Location: Fresh Roots Website
  • Description: To celebrate this year’s Science Odyssey, Canada’s biggest science and technology festival, we are highlighting amazing scientists from across the country! Young adult staff members at Fresh Roots interviewed inspiring individuals contributing to science, to learn more about their personal and professional journey, career, and what advice they have for youth. These scientists surprise and delight us with their unique topics and backgrounds, and the unexpected ways their work connects back to healthy food systems and a healthy environment.
  • Link to View: Spotlight on Scientists!

About Science Odyssey

Led by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Science Odyssey brings together hundreds of fun and engaging activities across the country from Saturday, May 1 to Sunday, May 16, 2021. Events range from science in the streets, visits to labs, science fairs, talks and conferences, school field trips, encounters with scientists and engineers, special exhibits at museums and science centres, scientific events at community organizations, online activities, and much more. 

Consult the full list of Science Odyssey activities.

Social media links:


Twitter: @Sci_Od

Instagram: @Sci_Od

Hashtag: #OdySci


Vancouver Technical Secondary: A Site History

By Kat Vriesema-Magnuson, Experiential Learning Manager

The Experiential Learning Team started our spring Field Trip Season at Van Tech last week with four classes from Laura Secord elementary school. We really love seeing so many classes take advantage of having a farm within walking distance, and look forward to seeing even more classes in the coming weeks. (Field trips spots are still available for May and June at both Van Tech and David Thompson Learn more and register!)

While we have a lot of existing field trip options for teachers to choose from, sometimes I get to make something “off-menu”. In this case, it was a class piloting for our new grade 4-7 ‘Seed to Salad’ year-long program. I’ve been working with the teacher to develop the field trips, focusing around close observation and building connections to the farm. I wanted students to know a bit of the history of the Van Tech farm and well, a number of internet rabbit holes later, we had something really exciting to share with students, and with you!

Before colonization, the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations lived on the land, around what is now the farm site, for thousands of years, living in relationship with a rich diversity of other-than-human life. Unfortunately, in the short time that I had to prepare, I wasn’t able to go deeper into the pre-colonization cultural and natural history of the exact farm site; that will have to be a separate project. If anyone has any insights, please share!

The current Vancouver Technical Secondary School building is less than 100 years old (it opened to students in 1928), yet it went through multiple builds, demolitions, and seismic upgrades before the farm was built in 2013. Equipped with maps, archival and contemporary images, aerial photographs, a history of the school written by the Vancouver School Board, and ample curiosity, we tasked groups of students to use this primary and secondary source evidence to recreate Vancouver Technical’s historical timeline.

View From the East

Check out these images, taken in ~1927, 1930, 1985, and 2021. How has the building changed? How about the surrounding area? (Check out the size of Broadway in the 1935 photo!)

View From the South

We love this image of the field hockey team from 1942 and had to recreate it. The original was taking just 2 years after girls were admitted to the school! What do you notice about the school building? What’s growing now that wasn’t in 1942?

Aerial View

This aerial photo, taken between 1942 and 1945 shows how much development has happened in the area in the last 80 years. The close-up shows the school campus. Compare those to the recent Google satellite views! Can you find the farm location on the 1940s close-up?

Students enjoyed playing detective, putting the pieces of the puzzle together, and getting a different view of what was, and maybe what could be. They were amazed that just 15 years earlier, a building sat where the farm is now! Sometimes it’s hard to imagine things could be different than they are right now and easy to imagine that they have always been this way, but the history of the Van Tech farm site shows that change is happening all the time, and those amazing things can happen when we choose to make the changes we want to see!


Google Maps of the Van Tech area,

Information about the seismic upgrades from Colborne Architectural Group,

Vancouver Archives,

Vancouver Technical School History,

Photo Captions

  1. 1927 Construction: Vancouver Technical Secondary School under construction. Photograph taken from East Broadway and Penticton Street on August 5, 1928. City of Vancouver Archives, CVA 447-269. Walter Edwin Frost photo.
  2. 1930 Complete school, from the east: Front view of Van Tech taken from the corner of East Broadway and Slocan Street around 1930, shortly after the school was built. City of Vancouver Archives, Sch P14. Leonard Juda Frank photo.
  3. 1985 school from the east: Front view of Van Tech taken from East Broadway, around 1985. City of Vancouver Archives, CVA 790-2078.
  4. 2021 School from East: Front view of Van Tech taken from East Broadway, April 15, 2021, by Kat Vriesema-Magnuson.
  5. Girls grass hockey team with Mayor McGeer taken on September 19, 1936. The team is standing on the fields located on the south side of Van Tech. The Girls Wing of the school, later demolished during seismic upgrading, is visible in the top middle of the photograph. City of Vancouver Archives, CVA 99-4945. Stuart Thomson photo.
  6. View from the field south of the school taken on April 15, 2021 by Kat Vriesema-Magnuson.
  7. Aerial view of Vancouver and Burnaby taken sometime between 1942 and 1945. Vancouver Technical Secondary School is visible on the middle right-hand side of the photograph. City of Vancouver Archives, VLP 186.7. Royal Canadian Air Force photo.
  8. Google Satellite View of Vancouver and Burnaby, accessed April 26, 2021.
  9. Close up of Van Tech from the 1940s aerial view. City of Vancouver Archives, VLP 186.7. Royal Canadian Air Force photo.
  10. Google Satellite close up of Van Tech, accessed April 15, 2021.

Norquay Field House – A Year in Review!

As we mark the dubious 1 year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown we can’t help but celebrate the accomplishments made possible through our residency at the Norquay Field House. With the support of the Vancouver Parks Board and the Field House Project, we have supported food literacy and food access for kids, youth, and the community at Norquay and across Vancouver. In 2019 we served 17,928 nutritious meals and engaged with 6,354 kids and youth through 34,616 program hours. In 2020 we served 73,653 nutritious meals and supported 2,650 kids and youth through 20,055 program hours.

Some of the highlights from this past year are:

  • Norquay Park Food Sharing Garden – We tend a sharing garden where we engage with community members throughout the growing season. We speak to people about plants, share stories and invite them to harvest vegetables on their own!


  • Apple Cider Press Day – In 2020 we held this modified annual event with volunteers from the Bosa Foundation preparing and pressing 700 pounds of apples into 35 gallons of juice. We showed many community members how cider pressing works and gave out ginger gold apples generously donated by BC Tree Fruits to take home!


  • SOYL Program – We host over 35 high school youth each year who learn how to grow, cook, and share food.  Youth are referred to the program through social service providers and counselors and, through the program, build lifelong skills in confidence, friendship, and leadership. Learn more about SOYL (Sustainable Opportunities for Youth Leadership) here.

  • Schoolyard Harvest Dinner *At Home Edition* – Fresh Roots annual fundraising dinner virtually broadcasted live from Norquay Field House. We hosted 190 virtual participants online with 35 staff and a cooking demo safely hosted by chefs in-person.

  • And last but not least! Right before lockdown before we knew we wouldn’t be back in the field house for a while, Alexa  Fresh Roots Executive Director, then Interim Executive Director got a chance to prepare Fresh Roots’ famous salad dressing for the first time! We hope to be back in the field house preparing and eating food, laughing, learning and enjoying time spent together with our community.


How Do You Connect with Nature?

By Kat Vriesema-Magnuson, Experiential Learning Manager

As I write this, Vancouver has snow on the ground, and where I’m staying right now in Tacoma, Washington we had snow yesterday. But spring is basically here, and if you look closely you can see it all around. I’ve been watching the leaf buds on the hydrangea outside my window swelling for a few weeks now, and just in the last day they’ve started to open up. The leaf buds on the Japanese maple and the neighbor’s plum tree are big enough to be visible from a distance. It’s not just the plants that are telling me spring is here. I’m very much not a morning person, but for the last few days I’ve been waking up before my alarm because there is light coming into my room before 7:00, and sunset isn’t until nearly 6:00 here these days.

We hear about connecting with nature, and how great that is for our physical and mental health, but how do you do that

  • The first, and arguably most important step, is just to notice. Look, feel, smell what’s around you. There is nowhere in the world that isn’t part of nature, so it doesn’t matter if you’re deep in the wilderness or at the top of a skyscraper. We’re all affected by the sun, wind, and rain; we all breathe the air around us.
  • The second step is to remember, so you can compare what is happening over time. Writing down your thoughts and observations in a nature journal is one great way to do this. Because I’m terrible at remembering to remember, I have a journaling app that prompts me each evening to jot down what I remember about the day, like the crocuses I saw while walking the dog, or the hummingbird that flashed his magenta throat at me. I’ve also been taking pictures from my home office window and posting them on my social media daily-ish (very -ish). It’s been a great way for me to document visually and share with others. Low tech solutions like a paper journal, or just a daily “noticing nature” check in with a family member or friend are also great!

As you get into the habit of noticing, and remembering what you notice, you can cultivate your sense of curiosity and wonderment. Resist the urge to google everything – with a little patience, the world around you may just answer your questions for you, and sitting with mystery is a wonderful practice. Today, I’m wondering how long it will take for the hydrangea to fully leaf out, and if the plum will bloom before I head home to Vancouver. I’m also wondering what the hawk that was circling the neighborhood this morning was looking for, and if it found it, and where the little birds go when it gets really windy. Maybe I’ll find the answers, maybe I won’t, but they will keep me noticing to help find the answers!


Happy Connecting!