Saugeen District Secondary School (SDSS) has one of the most unique horticultural science programs in Ontario.
Under the leadership of teacher Keith Day, the program has continued to grow and has been recognized throughout the community for its continued contributions to the local Care Centre and various retirement homes where students interact with an older generation.
The program has been self-sufficient through its annual Greenhouse Sale each spring that residents eagerly look forward to, in addition to providing planters for the Town of Saugeen Shores, both in Port Elgin and Southampton, and also providing hanging baskets to the local neighbourhood of Summerhill in Southampton for their unique antique-style lamp standards.
Not only has the program fostered horticultural science for high school students, many of whom have gone on to pursue science and horticulture post-secondary programs, but it has expanded to the elementary schools in the municipality.
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Students, known as ‘Young Growers’, visit SDSS in the early spring where they learn the importance of planting through hands-on seed planting, visiting the greenhouse to see how plants are grown and cultivated and also to learn the importance of insect control through the release of ladybugs – a big hit with the young students.
On Tuesday, April 16th (2019) students from Southampton’s G. C. Huston Public School were the first of the Spring season to visit and on Wednesday, April 17th, students from Northport Public School in Port Elgin will attend the Young Growers day of learning.
Not only do the young public school students learn about greenhouse horticulture but the high school students also benefit through working with the young students where they can see things afresh through ‘young eyes’ and also take on a mentoring role.
On Tuesday, April 16th, Mike and Eleanor Mowbray, owners of Canadian Tire in Port Elgin, brought ‘corporate’ colleagues to view first-hand the unique program. Mowbrays have, in fact, been mammoth supporters of the program with a donation of the original ‘Hoop House’ (outdoor greenhouse), grow tables with lights and many other pieces of equipment. They also enabled students to take a one-of-a-kind field trip to visit one of the largest greenhouse facilities in the Province, Bradford Greenhouses.
For their contributions to the school and the horticultural program, as well as various sports programs, the Mowbrays were recognized by the Bluewater District School Board (BWDSB) with the 2016 Award of Excellence and they were, in fact, the first husband and wife team to receive the award.
In this time of changes to the Education system, the loss of such a wide-reaching and impactful program such as the SDSS Greenhouse horticulture-science program would be nothing short of an atrocity when it comes to science learning, particularly given the emphasis being given today on STEM learning (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). This program is influencing secondary students and, perhaps, even more importantly is having an impact on elementary age students coming up through the education system.