Gail has been a special needs teacher for her entire career.
For the past eight years, she has been with LINKS High School in Montreal where she teaches a program called DEFIS (Démarche Éducatif Favorisant Intégration Sociale). The curriculum focuses on developing the knowledge, skills and attitudes required for successful integration into the community. introduced indoor hydroponic gardening into her classroom with the Nutritower and embeds each step of the growing process into the curriculum. Gail’s class uses their Nutritower to grow fresh produce that they sell to the Pius X Culinary Institute, located on the same premises. They manage to transform their growing efforts brilliantly while practising social and work skills related to customer service and entrepreneurship. Seeing the excitement that Gail’s students have towards the Nutritower is nothing short of inspiring.
Students, at first, are assigned jobs that play to their individual strengths, so that they may gain self-confidence and become more comfortable with the project. There is no limit to the range of abilities necessary to engage in the process. One student, who is visually impaired, checks the water levels in the tower’s reservoir because this can be assessed by touch alone. He also uses his brailed ruler to measure plant growth and his laptop and phone apps to do his math calculations. This is a unique way to validate their strengths, encourage them to work together and connect their actions to tangible results.
Each student has different styles of communication and learning, but they all took to the tower very well. We witnessed first-hand how Gail leads a classroom in our ‘Seed to Harvest’ workshops, and it’s clear that the work accomplished by her and her colleagues is underrated. At a minimum, it takes a strong person with a lot of love and patience to successfully prepare these students for life after school. Gail has created an environment that encourages her students to participate, to take chances, take initiative, and to develop essential habits for life. The Nutritower team feels a little taller for having been there.
The Nutritower might simplify some aspects of gardening, but you still need to be hands-on while your plants are growing. That’s why the ‘Seed To Harvest’ program is a great match with Gail Bernstein’s class — it was designed to actively engage and empower students as they grow to produce in the Nutritower, and we’re grateful to have participated and seen the entire process unfold. Our hats go off to Gail for being an amazing teacher in a challenging field. She’s been able to have such a positive impact on her students, and we can’t wait to see what the students grow in their next harvest!