2019 March Break Eco Camp Registration

We know it’s not exactly the time of year to be thinking about March Break … but … it’s almost that time of year to register for March Break Eco Camp! So we’re here to help you get ready for registration once again!

That’s right registration starts at 7 am on Tuesday, December 4th, 2018. So get ready to hit redial and refresh to register your Eco Camper!

Our one big registration tip for all you caregivers out there … don’t bother registering for before and after care until you’ve got everyone registered for camp first! There’s always enough room in the before and after care programs for all of the campers. So that means you don’t need to waste time on registration day and you can sign-up for it later time.

Here is the link to the City’s Recreation Program Registration Page and a link to more information about our March Break Eco Camp.

 

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!

Doors Open 2018 Birthday Party!

Join us for a little birthday celebration during Doors Open 2018! There will be birthday cake (while it lasts!), fun activities for the whole family and tours of our straw bale Children’s Teaching Kitchen.

We’re open Saturday, May 26th and Sunday May 27th from 10 am to 5 pm. You can check out the truth window in the Kitchen to see how straw bale buildings are built. Learn all about the sustainable features found in the Kitchen and check out the Solar Panels on the south roof. The Kitchen also features a green roof, radiant heating and fibreglass windows.

Don’t forget to visit our friends around the corner too! Colborne Lodge Museum is also participating in this years Doors Open Event. Check out their hours and information by clicking here.

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!

Fall Cooking Program Registration Time!

It’s that time of year again … Fall Registration! Time to start preparing for some tasty treats and hearty fall food in our Creative Chefs with Caregiver and Gourmet Veggies Programs. Registration starts on Saturday, September 9th, 2017 at 7 am! 

You can check out more information on our cooking programs here.

For registration information check out the City of Toronto’s FUN Guide Registration webpage.

We also have a free Youth Vegetarian Cooking workshop happening on Saturday, September 30th, 2017. Youth can learn about cooking great vegetarian recipes while helping us prepare for Harvest Fest on Sunday, Oct. 1st, 2017! Please note you must register for this program through the City’s FUN Guide Registration process. For more information check out our cooking programs page.

We look forward to cooking with you this Fall!

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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Update – Cooking Classes Are Still A Go

UPDATE:  Cooking Classes will go ahead as planned Saturday, February 20th, 2016. We look forward to seeing you there!


 

We are a City of Toronto program so just in case …

Our Cooking Classes are still a go tomorrow, however, just to be on the safe side if there is a labour disruption with CUPE 79 classes will be cancelled. 

For more information click here for the City of Toronto’s Contingency Plan.

We’re Officially a Case Study!

Very interesting news! The Ontario Association of Architects has chosen the Children’s Teaching Kitchen as a case study on sustainable design. There’s a lovely write-up on their website about the Kitchen and some great photos from throughout the construction, even some we don’t have ourselves. 

Under the tab “Light | Air” you’ll see a lovely shot with almost the full interior visible. We’re wondering where they’ve managed to stash all the stuff! It’s a lovely photo and shows off what a beautiful building it really is, but to be honest … we really do think it looks better like this:

20140516_092838Peas growing in the window, waterproof smocks for the little ones to help with dishes, an awesome dehydrator donated by a co-worker, an all important coffee maker and solar ovens stashed above the cabinets … plus cool stuff like this:

20140516_092133 Make for an amazing  space for our students and campers to learn and grow (by the way the above is part of a wasp’s nest and those are carrots in the background 🙂 ).