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Meeting Michelle

They say, “The teacher will appear when the student is ready.” In Michelle's case, many teachers appeared one sunny Sunday afternoon. Michelle is a ten year old who has been coming to Science World since she was five. She is open and curious about seemingly everything, but she says that her favourite part of Science World is the Ken Spencer Science Park.

She recalls that during the Science Park's construction days, she would be eating lunch and see construction trucks doing their thing. She found it amusing to see them roll on by so close to where she was sitting indoors. Back then, when so many exhibitions and galleries were closed for renovations and some, like the Science Park, did not even exist, she had to work hard to convince her parents to renew her membership. Her parents, having agreed to a two year membership, now bring Michelle to Science World most Sundays.

The sunny Sunday that Michelle met her TEN teachers was October 27, 2013, during Science World's City Farm Fest. Teachers ranged from Science Park staff to representatives from Bakerview EcoDairy, BokoEco, the Mobile Dairy Classroom Experience (BC Dairy Association), Strathcona 1890—Truck Farm, the UBC Farm, the Vancouver Fruit Tree Project Society, Vancouver Homesteader's Emporium and West Coast Seeds.

Michelle was first spotted at a fruit tree grafting and pruning demonstration. She then proceeded to: collect information and complementary packets of seeds; dig out and transplant a borage plant from the Truck Farm to the Science Park pollinator garden bed; save seeds from harvested plants; interact with the four chickens; learn about various composting systems; milk a demonstration cow; and finally she was found participating in a shovelling competition. The goal was to pile cow manure, courtesy of the Mobile Dairy Classroom cow and calf, onto the demonstration lasagna garden bed. The lasagna bed uses a layered mulching system in the autumn that breaks down during the winter, resulting in rich soil ready for spring planting.

Michelle has her own experience growing plants. She tends a garden plot situated against a wall next to her home. She and her mom started it as a fun learning project and also because they found that the family spent quite a bit on store-bought fruit and vegetables that they could grow themselves.

Michelle takes a somewhat experimental approach to growing food.  Last year she split open two kinds of beans and crossed them. She recalls, "When I experimented by crossing two kinds of beans, they grew to about 9 inches, but they looked weird and eventually died." Of her horticulture adventures she wisely concludes, "While growing plants, I've learned that plants need care and time and that some plants need more time and space to grow. So if you have two or more plants and one is not growing as fast as the other one, there's no need to worry."

The amazing thing about that Sunday is that after Michelle left, we all said how much we had learned from her. Meeting Michelle was the highlight of that sunny Sunday at the Ken Spencer Science Park.

Post script: Michelle is keen to volunteer at Science World. However, she must wait till she's at least 15 to officially do so through her high school. In the meantime, we look forward to many more Sundays sharing ideas and explorations with our young student/teacher.