Langley man helped create future green thumbs

The rain stopped early in the morning, then the clouds parted and the spirit of Bruce Van Garderen shone down on Langley Meadows Community School on Tuesday, Nov. 4.

Van Garderen, who co-founded Maples Discovery Garden and was a key driver in introducing Langley Meadows’ older students to gardening over the past few years, died from cancer this past April.

He was 64.

During an afternoon ceremony on Nov. 4, with Van Garderen’s family members as well as Jean Moir’s 3/4/5 class looking on, Langley Meadows dedicated its school gardens in Van Garderen’s memory.

Over a four-year period, Van Garderen partnered with Grade 7 teacher Lori Villeneuve to introduce the Langley Meadows students to the Nature’s Class program, and to Maples Discovery Gardens Co-op.  

In fact, noted his daughter Elsabee Lyon, Van Garderen helped implement the Nature’s Class in many schools in Langley starting with Langley Meadows, as his grandchildren attended that school.  

“He was also Langley Environmental Hero in 2010,” Lyon added.  

The garden, built by Langley School District workers this past winter, is now called “Bruce’s Discovery Garden.”

Lettuce, peas, potatoes, pumpkins, squash, kale, green onions, strawberries, parsley, and daffodils have been grown at the garden since it was first constructed.

During the dedication, Van Garderen’s wife Ridi said, “This was his passion. He started the whole program.”

Villeneuve, who now teaches at Yorkson Creek Middle School, said Van Garderen’s ability to make gardening both fun and educational had a positive and lasting impact on students.

“Holding a tomato was more empowering than any math lesson you can ever teach them,” Villeneuve said.

As part of the ceremony a young tree was planted at the garden in Van Garderen’s memory.

“Bruce loved to garden, loved to talk to kids about plants,” Langley Meadows principal Vanessa Jaggi said. “Every time we go out to the garden, Bruce will be with us there.”

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