Kids love to get their hands dirty and at the Victoria Compost and Conversation Education Society, kids get a chance to do this while learning about sustainable gardening. I had a chance to speak with Sonya who is the Education Coordinator for the Centre who gave me a wealth of knowledge about the importance of organic gardening and how it can be taught to people of all ages.
Question: Hi Sonya, can you please first start by telling us a bit about the Greater Victoria Compost Education Centre, the history behind how it first was established and overall what the centre provides to the community?
Sonya: The GVCEC began as the Victoria Compost Education Centre in 1992 as a project of the Fernwood Community Association (FCA). The centre is a registered charity, managed by a volunteer board of directors, with 4 full time staff and 3 part time staff. GVCEC shares the site with allotment gardens managed by the FCA, who lease the land from School District #61 and in turn lease it to GVCEC for a nominal cost.
The Victoria Compost Education Society promotes composting, organic gardening, conservation, local food production, and urban sustainability. This is accomplished by being an educational resource through our demonstration site, staff, volunteers, outreach, and workshops for children and adults throughout the Capital Regional District. On-site we have a rain garden, a running aquaponics model, a straw bale building, a multi-faceted compost demonstration site, a composting toilet, bathtub ponds, and a highly stocked library full of resources for the public to use at their leisure while visiting the site. We operate a retail outlet offering supplies to assist the public in more successful composting and organic gardening.
Question: What are the different types of activities and resources the Greater Victoria Compost Education Centre provides to families, particularly children?
Sonya: The mandate of the GVCEC is to encourage composting and conservation:
-By providing public education programs to the residents of Greater Victoria and surrounding regions in the areas of composting, organic gardening, and conservation
-By maintaining a demonstration site to provide the public with an opportunity to observe and experience the various elements of composting, organic gardening, and conservation
-By providing a telephone hotline to answer general inquires about composting, organic gardening, and conservation
-By actively soliciting membership in the society
-By using volunteers in all aspects of the GVCEC’s activities
For more information about our public education programs, including those catered to youth in the classroom, after-school groups, and home learners, please visit our website: www.compost.bc.ca or call (250) 386-9676.
Question: When parents take their kids to your education centre, what can they expect them to learn?
Sonya: When kids come to our site for an interactive tour or a workshop, they can expect to leave this vibrant space thriving with knowledge about the following topics: worms and how they help in the composting process, plant partnerships (guilds & companion gardening), identifying edible plants in our garden, and composting (and its importance to each individual).
Question: What do you think kids like the most when they come to the Greater Victoria Compost Education Centre?
Sonya: The worms! Almost everyone enjoys a chance to hold a worm and see where they live here on site and what they like to eat. Often kids get a chance to feed them their food scraps and see what the final product will look like after the worms eat their food (worm castings).
Question: I noticed from your website another youth program called SLUGS. What is the SLUGS program and how does it differ from the other youth programs the centre offers?
Sonya: Sustainable Living and Urban Gardening Skills (SLUGS) is a workshop series developed for youth between the ages of 13-30 years. This program was developed to harness the interests of individuals in the community and create workshops that cater specifically to those interests, within the fields of gardening or sustainable living. Workshops in the past have included: a canning & pickling extravaganza, an herbal first aid workshop, a bagel making workshop, bread making workshop, foraging for forest foods workshop, and a food dehydration workshop. These are offered on a sign-up basis, with an expected minimum donation usually of $5 for the facilitator. These are generally offered in the evenings.
Question: What is one interesting thing about the Education Centre that you think parents should know about?
Sonya: The Greater Victoria Compost Education Centre supports many local initiatives and runs annual events including the “Pumpkin Smash”. In the first weekend of November, we partner with Thrifty Foods, Ellice Recycling, and the greater public, to collect, destroy, or peacefully say “good-bye” to your Jack-O’-Lanterns that have started to break down after their season of spooking and scaring. The event is typically held in the parking lot of the Cloverdale Thrifty Foods, come join us this year and properly put your pumpkins to rest!
Question: I see that the GV Compost Education Centre has memberships as well. By becoming a member, what are the benefits from signing up?
Sonya: Memberships run one year from date of purchase and include the following benefits:
-Free admission to 2 workshops, or 4 workshops for a family membership (held at least once monthly, on-site)
-10% discount on gardening and composting supplies at participating garden centres and at the Compost Education Centre
-Our quarterly newsletter, “The Latest Dirt”
The cost for membership for an individual is $25, or $40 for a family
Mick: It was great talking to you Sonya, and I learned a lot about composting from our discussion. As a matter of fact, I will go throw my banana peel in the compost bin right now. So, if you are looking for something to do with your little one(s), put them into their outside clothes, and take them to Greater Victoria Compost Education Centre to learn about all the great benefits composting has for building a healthier, more environmentally friendly community. You can find all of their programs up on ChatterBlock here.