Queen Mary Elementary Organic Matters






Project Title

Queen Mary Elementary School - Organic Matters

Project Description

Queen Mary has on-site raised European garden beds and native plant areas. Staff have been working with students and a variety of community groups during the past several years to make best use of these resources. Staff at QM have identified a number of challenges and opportunities inherent to these spaces including helping students to understand how composting is part of the soil and food cycle.

Last year, new soils delivered for the raised garden beds were contaminated with some plastics. This raised the question of standards for soil production. What are the standards? Is soil production regulated? Do plastics in food soils matter? Is it an issue for food consumption? This initiated a lot of discussion with stake holders, but no resolutions.

These questions also led to school staff considering producing our own soil. The school currently utilizes a green bin as part of the VSB waste management system. Currently waste from these is collected along with our other recycling and garbage. We have noticed that students frequently use these green bins to dispose of a large quantity of non-biodegradable items. It is apparent that students need further education on how to utilize the green bin. Part of this could include following through with the production of compost.

Project Goal

Ultimately, we would like students to be responsible users of the green bin system at the school and home as we feel that poor and mis-use of the city compost bin system is at the root of the plastic contamination of commercially available compost. We envisage UBC students working with one elementary class to study the soil cycle, producing compost from school waste as part of that study. The elementary students would then present their learning to the wider school community to educate others and monitor student use of the green bins.

The elementary students would be environmental ambassadors for the community, helping to spread the word and habits of sorting non-biodegradable materials from household compost bins.

Compost from our own waste would be used in the garden, thus demonstrating to students that food production is cyclical.

Skills Preferred + To Be Developed

  • Knowledge of a variety of composting systems.
  • Comfortable presenting and working with small groups of elementary students or their classroom teacher.
  • Enthusiasm and interest in sharing knowledge with a wide audience.

Preferred Days of Week and Hours

Monday through Friday (school is in session from 9-3). After school meetings with staff.

Project Location

Queen Mary is located at 6th Ave and Trimble street and is easily accessed by a variety of transit buses or by bike from UBC.

Project / partner orientation

Meet with teacher for site orientation.

Related Community Service Opportunities for Students

UBC Students may have the opportunity to present findings on garden soils to the Parent Advisory Council (PAC) or the Gardening Committee at Queen Mary.


  • A cleared Criminal Record Check (CRC) will be required for working with vulnerable adults and children (this is a specific CRC).
  • We do not expect UBC LSF students to be teachers. Any and all interactions with elementary students will be lead and facilitated by classroom teachers with input from UBC students and through collaborative planning.

Organization Information


Queen Mary Elementary School

Mission + Vision

School mission statement: Our mission is to build a respectful community of lifelong learners. We work towards becoming caring, accomplished and cooperative citizens. We aim to provide an enriched environment in which children are encouraged to think, question, create and wonder.

Guiding Principles + Values:

  • To demonstrate personal responsibility and self-control.
  • Respect each other, respect learning and respect property.
  • As students develop in age, they will show increasing maturity, decision-making and leadership qualities.
  • Socially and environmentally conscious learners.
  • We value connection to land, teachings students how we obtain our food.
  • Accessibly for all students and staff to use the garden.

Primary Contact

  • Contact Person(s): Michelle Tappert, Maria King, Sheila Kuzmiski
  • Email: mtappert@vsb.bc.ca, mking@vsb.bc.ca, skuzmiski@vsb.bc.ca
  • Address: 2000 Trimble St, Vancouver, BC V6R 3Z4
  • Phone: (604) 713-5464
  • Website: http://go.vsb.bc.ca/schools/queenmary/Pages/Default.aspx
  • Best time(s) method(s) to contact: Email after 3 PM

Expected Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

  • I hope students will learn about helping individuals to change habits
  • I think students will come to appreciate that change must be individual choices, but that these can be influenced through education, communication and incentives.
  • Students will develop a skill in presentation to a wide variety of audiences.

Organizational Outcomes

  • Better utilization of compost / waste management systems
  • Implementation of compost system at Queen Mary to support existing garden
  • Reduce the amount of single use plastic waste being produced at Queen Mary
source: https://wiki.ubc.ca/Course:LFS350/Projects/F2019/QMEOrganicMatters