Great things are happening in the Jane and Finch community and students are leading the way in sharing that message with the entire city. On June 5, 2012, the students in Sheri Alcordo’s grade 5 class from Driftwood Public School joined together with parents and community leaders to plant and paint garden boxes adorned with key positive words about their community. Participants also participated in workshops about gardening.
Alcordo, a fixture at Driftwood PS for 18 years, was named Omni TV Golden Apple Teacher of the Year in 2011 and more recently named a Teacher of the Year by the Premier of Ontario. Her action-oriented grade 5 students have been a model demonstration class in the TDSB, which has promoted student voice, equity and inclusion. “Sheri has advocated for the community and students by providing them with relevant learning experiences,” said Principal Debi Lavine. “Becoming active participants at the Driftwood Community Garden is just the latest example of that advocacy.”
Lavine said that Alcordo’s students have been stewards to beautify the community and develop a source for fresh produce. “They are creating awareness that wonderful things do happen in their community, the place they call home.” The students also showcased the importance of the garden as a place for equity and empowerment at the May 2012 TDSB Futures Conference which highlights Social Justice and Equity issues.
The garden event was a long time in the making. Last fall, the dynamic class met fellow community leader and Reaching Up coordinator, Cecile Huxtable. She shared her goal of creating the Driftwood Community Garden to break down the often negative stereotypes of the Jane- Finch area. Huxtable formed partnerships with educational community outreach programs such as Live Green (Eco Spark), Toronto and Region Conservation for the Living City, and Foodshare who explain the importance of composting and knowing the process of seed-to-table.
Driftwood students presented Huxtable with a painting they collectively created to thank her for the work she did with them and in the community.