The students in Alvin Dyck's fourth grade class at Neil Campbell School aren't just learning the curriculum, they're growing with it — literally.

For the past four years, Dyck and his students have grown a garden right in the classroom, starting from seeds to seedlings to full-size plants under a full-spectrum 600-watt light.

"They love it," Dyck says, "they absolutely love it — especially the fact that you're starting from a seed, because to a child, a seed doesn't look like there's any life in there at all... The excitement really starts when they start to see (the plants) sprout and germinate, and as they get bigger and bigger, of course it's in my classroom, so everyday (the kids) walk in and look for changes."

Dyck has the children take time to track observations of the plants, but he uses the garden in many facets of the classroom. Dyck explains they use the plants as inspiration for poetry in English class, measurement subjects in math class, and tangible examples in health class. But Dyck says the garden also provides important lessons in food production.

"We're so tied to the city, and we're not growing as much food," he says. "Most of these kids, as far as they're concerned, their food comes from Sobeys or Superstore or Safeway or wherever, and they're not as connected to where it comes from."

Dyck says through this project, a lot of his students have become inspired to eat veggies and try to grow their own at home.

Dyck's classroom garden runs as a part of Agriculture in the Classroom Manitoba's (AITC-M) Little Green Thumbs program, and his class has also taken part in other AITC-M programs like the Amazing Agriculture Adventure and the Made in Manitoba Breakfast.

Because of his leadership in agriculture education and advocacy in the classroom, this year Dyck received the Teacher Driver Award from AITC-M.

"We are thrilled to give Alvin Dyck the Teacher Driver Award," says Sue Clayton, AITC-M's executive director, in a press release. "He is an active agriculture advocate in his school and community."

Dyck says when he found out about the award, he felt a bit a sheepish a first, as he thinks the non-profit organization needs to be recognized for their work in creating hands-on programs for teachers to use in the classroom.

"They have created these great programs — and the garden is another example of it — that make it easy for me to (be an agriculture advocate)," he says.

Dyck says he's very thankful to the organization for their recognition and their programming.

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