Countdown to the 2018 High Park Harvest Festival!

Only four more sleeps until the High Park Harvest Festival begins! There’s plenty of fun to be had at the Children’s Garden and around the corner with our neighbours at Colborne Lodge Museum. The festivities run from 11 am to 5 pm with our free harvest lunch starting at 12:30 pm (while it lasts!).

Entrance to the Harvest Festival and the activities at the Children’s Garden are all free. Families can check out the Junkestra where kids can get creative and play with recycled musical creations. They can also make their own recycled instruments to take home.

An All-Ages Tea Party is also happening at the Festival with our Longtime Children’s Garden Friends Garden Jane (Jane planted the seeds that became our Children’s Eco Programs) and Emma, Founder of Blooming Caravan (and past Expansion Specialist, helping us spread our programs throughout the City)! This special program features tea play, mud pies, compost tea making, and make-and-take mini flower bouquets. Plus you’ll get to enjoy the book nook with garden stories for everyone! Come sip a cup of afternoon tea and take part in inter-generational activities for kids, grandparents, and everyone in between to enjoy together.

Live Green will be onsite to answer all your City related green/environmental questions with fun activities for the kids. There are also plenty of other fun crafts and activities throughout the Garden for everyone to enjoy!

It’s also our 20th Anniversary this year so there will be some celebratory cake available for everyone to enjoy! 

Down at Colborne Lodge everyone’s Harvest Festival favourites will be on site – artisans, local food, community organizations, museum friends, music, dance, pumpkin carving, apple bobbing – and of course our famous roast potatoes and apple cider. Some activity fees apply.

We’ll also be participating in the Ontario Natural Building Coalition’s Home Tour. People will be onsite to talk about the amazing eco-friendly aspects of our straw bale Children’s Teaching Kitchen.

 So much to see and do! We hope you’ll all join us on Sunday for all the fun!

High Park Harvest Fest Sunday, Sept. 30th!

How is it already the last day of camp!?! We’ve had a great summer with all of our young Eco Campers and are now looking forward to our Fall Programs. Registration starts Wednesday, September 12, 2018 at 7 am (note a different date than the usual)! Click here for more details.

The other fun fall activity we’re looking forward to is the High Park Harvest Festival! It’s happening Sunday, September 30, 2018 from 11 am to 5 pm. That’s right we said September 30th. That’s our second different date than usual! Thanksgiving falls on the first Sunday in October this year and we figured everyone might be a bit too busy to join us if we stuck with tradition.

It’s also the Children’s Eco Programs 20th Anniversary. We’ll have our usual Free Harvest Lunch (while it lasts!) for Harvest Fest but we’ll also have some fun birthday celebrations and of course a little Birthday Cake!

We can’t wait to see everyone at Harvest Fest!

It’s Our Birthday! CEP Turns 20!

TL;DR – We’ve provided thousands of fun and informative environmental education programs over the past 20 years and we hope to provide thousands more over the next 20!

A one year pilot program … turned into 20 years of garden and nature fun!

It’s our Birthday! For the past 20 years we have been honoured to share our love of nature, organic gardening and healthy cooking with children and youth from across the City. Together we have planted veggies, explored High Park and made some very tasty Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake.

As with many of the City of Toronto’s test projects, the High Park Children’s Garden started out as a one year pilot program. Back in 1997 the area just north of the Colborne Lodge Museum included a picnic shelter, parking lot and washrooms. It was quite isolated and our Museum friends around the corner were very much alone. In an effort to make the area safer and encourage people to visit the south end of the park, the City decided that a Children’s Garden with hands-on gardening programs would be the perfect solution … at least for a year.

So in the spring of 1998 holes were cut out of the asphalt in the parking lot, raised beds were made with old wood from an east end boardwalk and a fence was built and painted in what the Parks Branch considers a “classic” neon green colour. Seen from above those garden beds spelled out ABC with a few extra beds tucked in between to give us maximum growing space.

The initial design of the garden included a sand box tucked into the B surrounded by a perennial herb garden and native wildflower gardens on the hillside to reflect the naturalisation projects happening throughout High Park. In an effort to help educate students and families about composting in their own backyard, a variety of compost bins were added beside the picnic shelter helping round out the gardening program with a little compost education and lots of talks about worms! Over the next 5 years new elements were added including a Fedge, a.k.a. Food Hedge along one section of that classic neon green fence with a xeriscape bed planted in the 15.24 cm (6 inches) of soil on the opposite side. The big square bed in the middle of the C was turned into a pollinator garden to attract more butterflies, bees and beneficial wee critters.

The spring of 1998 was a busy one for nature based programs with the City of Toronto. As the High Park Children’s Garden was under construction a program was also being developed to draw attention to the new Discovery Walk Trails throughout the City. It was called the Exploring Toronto Program and its staff would take groups of students and community members on guided hikes through our parks and ravines. The aim of the program was to educate people about the diverse urban wilderness we are so lucky to enjoy here in Toronto. This nature education program proved to be quite popular and students were able to learn about the plants and animals that have adapted to life in the big city.

During the summer of 2001 the two programs officially became one and were then known as the Children’s Garden and Exploring Toronto Programs (it shows you just how dedicated to the programs we were by the simple fact we kept spelling this out for over 15 years!). This was also the summer we first offered six full weeks of Eco Camp (after having run a one week Eco Camp “Pilot Program” the previous year).

Campers participated in gardening activities, hiking and trips to Centre Island. Since that year we’ve expanded Eco Camp to run for 8 weeks during the summer and have added a Sprouts Eco Camp Program for 4 and 5 year olds and a Youth Eco Camp Program for 10 to 14 year olds.

As the years passed and our programs continued to expand, we found ourselves cooking more and more with the fruits and veggies from the Garden. Throughout the years we’ve also cooked up plenty of free harvest lunches for the High Park Harvest Festival and many of our summertime events.

In order to cook all of the yummy food we had to lug practically an entire kitchen around to different Community Centres in big Rubbermaid tubs. The one with the food processor in it was always the heaviest! After serving up all of those tasty treats back at the Children’s Garden, clean-up was also quite the challenge. Especially considering the lack of hot water onsite! This meant we had to wash thousands of dishes  in water heated over a camp stove while using three of those same Rubbermaid tubs (wash, rinse, sanitize!) as sinks.

Finally after packing and unpacking a borrowed City van for the hundredth time the decision was made to build a Children’s Teaching Kitchen. It would replace and use the same footprint as the old picnic shelter at the Garden. Now of course we are quite the environmentally friendly program so just any old kitchen wouldn’t do. We felt the need to make sure we built a kitchen that was environmentally friendly too. After many years of planning, a few false starts and a strike one summer … The straw bale Children’s Teaching Kitchen was finally born! Construction started in the fall of 2011 and our beautiful Kitchen opened the summer of 2012. The building of Kitchenland is a vast and adventurous tale which you can read all about by clicking here. It’s well worth checking out for the photos alone!

Once the Kitchen was built and our cooking programs were finally underway we knew it was time for another little change. It was then that we brought all of our programs together under the title of Children’s Eco Programs … our program name finally fit on our business cards!

Over the past 20 years our programs have continued to grow. We’ve even helped other City Community and Recreation Centres to start their own garden and nature programs. Also in addition to our original school programs and summer Eco Camps we’ve added our Watch Me Grow Family Drop-In Program, a March Break Eco Camp, Cooking with Veggies classes, Edible Cosmetics Workshops, Guide and Scout Programs and of course our Birthday Party Programs. Birthday Parties are all the rage at the Garden these days and a fun outing for the whole family!

Strolling through the High Park Children’s Garden on a sunny spring day can provide little glimpses of life poking its head out of the soil once again. Sauntering through in summer will make you hungry with all the tasty potential the harvest has to offer. Ambling about in autumn will have you marvelling at the plants hardy enough to take on a bit of frost and still keep growing. Wandering along in winter is the perfect time to dream of what to plant in the garden again next spring! A trip to High Park and the Children’s Garden is worthwhile at any time of year.

We’ve enjoyed travelling through time and sharing these fun stories of our humble beginnings and we look forward to creating new stories over the next 20 years with you! In the meantime we’ll keep all the little hands in the soil, little feet on the trail and little tummies in the kitchen!

In the Depths of a Magical Urban Forest …

You will find yourself stumbling upon a wondrous glade where an enchanted stronghold known as Kitchenland resides! Kitchenland is a wee corner of the High Park Kingdom. Here children learn how to grow veggies, cook healthy meals and treats, enjoy nature and have a little fun.

Have you ever wondered how the Children’s Eco Programs started here in High Park? How about the building of our amazing straw bale Teaching Kitchen? Here’s your chance to learn more about the Children’s Eco Programs through our fun and whimsical Kitchenland story. Enjoy!

Click here for the first chapter – From Caterpillar …

Introducing Our New Garden & Nature Weekday Programs

We’re introducing a fun, educational new program for our fall session. Garden and Nature and Around the Garden – with Caregiver are our two new weekday programs happening Tuesdays throughout the fall. 

To register for this program please go to the City of Toronto’s FUN Guide registration page.

For more information about the program check out our Garden & Nature Program Page.

Registration for our fall Garden & Nature Programs plus our fall Children’s Cooking Programs starts Saturday, Septmeber 9th, 2017 at 7 am. Get ready to hit those redial and refresh buttons!

FOUR MORE SLEEPS!!!

Only 4 more sleeps until Eco Camp Starts!!! Can you tell we’re Excited!?!?! Our Camp Counsellors have so many fun things in store for your campers they’ll be talking about Eco Camp all summer long. Here are a few tips and tricks to get you ready for Camp and to make Tuesday morning drop off go smooth and stress free.

First off there will be a couple more (quick and painless we promise!) forms for you to sign. These are permission forms for swimming, for the Junior & Youth offsite trip on Wednesday and the Sprouts trip to the splash pad on Thursday. If someone else is dropping off your camper we can sort this out over email. Please call Keely at 416-936-4983 if your child is not being dropped off by a parent or guardian or walking in by themselves. See below for more reminders for our Sprouts and Junior & Youth Campers. 

Sprouts (4-5 yrs):

  • Sprouts morning drop off location is right at the Children’s Garden in the South end of the Park. Don’t forget the road between Grenadier Restaurant and the Children’s Garden is a one-way road going south. If you have to drop off older campers at the picnic shelter near the pool plan your route accordingly! Click here for a map of High Park
  • Spouts need a swimsuit on Thursdays for their trip up to High Park’s fancy splash pad and wadding pool
  • Don’t forget sturdy hiking shoes or sneakers, a hat, sunscreen, a refillable water bottle, snacks and lunch
  • Click here for our Sprouts Eco Camp Parent Handbook

Junior (6-9 yrs) and Youth (10-14 yrs) Eco Campers:

  • We have swimming on Tuesday morning (also Thursday morning) so please make sure you pack a swimsuit and towel
  • Junior and Youth campers are dropped off towards the north end of the Park at the Picnic Shelter next to the pool and baseball diamonds (on the east side – the one-way northbound Colborne Lodge Drive side. Picnic shelter/area #15 on the map). Click here for a map of the park
  • Our older campers also do a lot of hiking so don’t forget sturdy hiking shoes or sneakers, hat, sunscreen, a refillable water bottle, snacks and lunch
  • Click here for the Junior & Youth Eco Camp Parent Handbook

Have yourselves a great long weekend and see you on Tuesday morning! ONLY FOUR MORE SLEEPS!

High Park Harvest Festival

This is it! The celebration of the year 🙂 Join us on Sunday, October 2 from 12 pm to 4 pm for this year’s High Park Harvest Festival. You can enjoy our free harvest lunch, music, meet Professor Pricklethorn, make seed balls, leaf pounding bookmarks, dream pillows and more!

Harvest Festival 2015

You can also check out the great things happening around the corner at Colborne Lodge Museum! Activities run from 11 am to 5 pm. A special Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Thanksgiving Address on the West Lawn lead by Mohawk Elder William Woodworth Raweno:kwas will open Harvest Fest. They also have vendors, music, artisans and baked potatoes for sale.

So much to do you can spend the day in High Park! We look forward to seeing you at the Garden on Sunday!

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Spring Peeper

Spring into School Programs

The snow will melt, the snow will melt, the snow will melt … Spring is officially here and that means it’s time to get ready to garden! It’s also time to book your curriculum-linked Spring School Program! We’re so excited that even that little bit of snow couldn’t get us down while we’re getting ready to plant.

Lets Get Growing! (1)

Peas, greens, brassicas (that family of green veggies we’re all encouraged to eat like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards, cauliflower, kale and kohlrabi), peas, radishes and beets all like a cooler growing season and can even take a little frost. Of course the chives and lemon balm have already poked their heads above the soil. As has one of our favourite spring veggies … sorrel. It’s one of those sour greens but with a green apple zing to it so it peps up your salad without leaving a bitter after-taste.

Bring your class our for a morning or afternoon session at the Children’s Garden. Hands on activities can include planting, watering, compost maintenance, worm holding & feeding (aka checking out the vermicomposter), games and more. There’s always so much to do in the garden during spring. Your class will have fun while learning about soil, plants, animals, insects and organic gardening. Half-day and full-day programs are available. Combine 2 half day programs to make a full day in High Park. Click here for more information.

Let's Go For A Hike!

Spring is also a great time to get out and explore nature as everything wakes up from it’s long winter’s nap. Many trees and plants will start to bloom soon, birds start chirping their songs, and bugs and insects start to buzz. The City of Toronto’s Parks and Ravines are a great place to go for a hike and explore nature in an urban setting. To dig deeper into the mysteries of urban nature in Toronto check out the Biodiversity Booklet Series.

Have an energetic class? A hike program is a perfect way to focus that energy while learning about habitats, animals, plants, soil, rocks, weather and more. There are plenty of hands on activities students will enjoy like plant and animal Identification, storytelling, nature-based science experiments, games, orienteering and more. Half-day and full-day programs are available. Combine 2 half day programs to make a full day in High Park. Click here for more information.

Let's Get Cooking!

Now that spring has graced us with it’s presence that means fresh fruits and veggies start growing in our garden. This means we get to incorporate them in our cooking programs. Fresh lettuce and sorrel for salads, kale for kale chips, chives to add flavour to our whole-grain cheddar biscuits and now we’re hungry just thinking about it!

Bring your class out for one of our healthy cooking programs. Not only will they make something tasty to eat, they’ll brush up on their fractions while their at it! Baking is one of the best, hands-on activities to help review fractions with students. There’s even a reward at the end when they get it right. Other hands on activities include harvesting, estimating & measuring the volume of ingredients, food mapping, safe kitchen practices (including knife handling for older grades), vegetable & fruit identification and more. Half-day and full-day programs are available. Combine 2 half day programs to make a full day in High Park. Click here for more information.

Spots fill-up quickly so book now for your chance to enjoy a little spring in High Park with your students!

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