Our team (“Maintainers”) began as a group on Monday, May 9th, 2022, in the Bergeron Centre forEngineering Excellence at classroom BRG217. Along the C4 Sprint, the team faced many logisticalchallenges – from our initial plan to connect local restaurants and businesses with surplus food to localcharities in Woburn > to fund a community fridge in Woburn to reduce food waste > to prepare theWoburn CI garden beds for high school students to plant their vegetable seedlings. Fortunately, ourcommunity partner had suggested that there was a plot of land at Woburn Collegiate Institute thatneeded work done to create a vegetable garden. The idea was for our team to prepare the Woburn CIgarden beds on Sunday, June 5th , 2022, so that Woburn Jr and St. Thomas More CS students couldplant the vegetable seedlings they have been growing in their classrooms. This opportunity was, ofcourse, exciting for the team, but also a remarkable change of direction, given the fact that our plan wasto raise funds to purchase a fridge for one of the charities (e.g. food bank) in Woburn or for a highschool cafeteria where staff can easily access the food. What makes this even more surprising is that theteam already decided to pivot from our initial plan of connecting local restaurants and businesses withsurplus food to local charities in Woburn. Since the team was excited to take on the project, we endedup taking the opportunity that was presented to us by the community partner.
That did not, however, come without major challenges that we faced as a group. One major challenge we faced as a group was that some of us were overly dependent on the team leaders. Understandably, there was a bit of team inequality since the team leaders had all the information about the project from the community partner, unless the team members took an initiative to join the Zoom meetings with the community partner. Often most members were not aware there were meetings. One process that evolved was that leaders had to share information they knew about the project in a timely manner, clearly clarify and define team members’ roles, and be available for the team and understand their concerns to ensure team productivity and engagement. One challenge was that the team leaders had to learn to trust the teammates and let them make a few decisions for the team on their own, as it was realized that it was important to trust teammates and function as a team.
The team grew to understand that building trust is an effective way in resolving challenges of group work. Trust also led to engagement with the project at hand. However, it was equally important for team leaders to assign tasks to team members (by creating a spreadsheet and adding names to tasks), so they are held accountable for their assignments. As you can see from the photos taken at the Woburn CI garden beds event, Woburn CI and the community partner would likely not have been able to get the beds prepared if not for our team’s manpower and the resources we provided (that was funded by the budget for the team).
We celebrated our triumphs, during the event, by eating scrumptious baked goods donated by The Local Café, samosas, and pizzas. However, we celebrated by more ways than just eating food. We also celebrated by sharing photos, taken at the event, with team through Google Drive and WhatsApp. The individual and group photos taken, with a shared laughter on peoples’ faces, reminded us of what we had accomplished – preparing the garden beds for students to plant their seedlings “for the future of tomorrow,” as stated on the event poster. Triumph does not come easily, and we did face failure, to a certain extent. Some noticeable challenges were overdue tasks, broken objectives, and rejected deliverables, related to planning and organizing a community event. The list of challenges included procuring enough tools, soil, compost, mulch, and food for the 40 expected volunteers to join and get involved. Even though the team was faced with these challenges, we saw any possible failures as an opportunity to learn from our mistakes and to come back stronger with better reasoning.
The moral of our story is that the vegetable garden is just the medium in which we met and connected. All the team members have a personal goal they want to achieve in the Collaborative Project course. However, when the project is focused on team collaboration, the team’s goal is more important than the individual goal. The team learned through this collective journey that agile approaches to event planning helped us, and even the community partner, to be flexible with our plans. With the knowledge that the community shared with us and their trust, the team was able to ensure the event thrived, even in times of uncertainty. Furthermore, we learned that by having a SMART goal that outlines what to achieve within a project, we were better able to achieve the goals efficiently. This includes not only all the necessary resources, time, and funds needed, but also knowledge and skills as well, which involves the team’s various disciplinary approaches to complete the goal.
Our team’s various disciplinary approaches were used to assist the team leaders in pinpointing and assigning team members’ roles that both keep them engaged with the project while making meaningful contributions to the short- and long-term goals of preparing the Woburn CI garden beds. The various disciplinary approaches complemented each other in the sense that each team member has different perspectives to share. There is always more than one approach to a solution. The insights the team made collectively concerning the transferability and importance of each of our disciplinary approaches to our project were that transdisciplinary approaches to collaboration play an important role for innovation, transformations, and improving project achievement. The team members involved in the project had to apply their own knowledge, skills, and perseverance in order to prepare the garden beds.
As a team, our initial plan, with food insecurity as the focus, was to connect local restaurants and businesses with surplus food to local charities in Woburn. However, we soon realized that there would be logistical issues and that there were those already connecting the dots and doing great work in that regard. We were then made aware of the fact that food banks in the area had issues related to storage, and thus we decided to raise funds to perhaps purchase a fridge for one of the charities, and put it in an area of high access (high school cafeteria?) so that the cafeteria could have access to perfectly good ingredients that would otherwise have been thrown away. However, once again there were logistical issues (who would drive the goods between the two places after our project was over? Could we raise funds in the short time frame that we had?.
So we decided to pivot given these logistical challenges, to a project that our community partner Leah Yuyitung pointed us to. There was a plot of land (pictured above) on the grounds of Woburn Collegiate Institute that needed to be prepped to become a garden for students of the local middle and catholic schools to plant the seedlings that they were growing for months. We were immediately interested given the opportunity for real hands-on work and to leave a lasting impact at the community level. We began to plan and prepare a community event to prepare the garden bed for planting.
The time was now for planning and organizing a community event to prepare the garden bed, so that at a later point, students of Woburn Jr. Elementary School and St. Thomas More Catholic school could come and plant their seedlings that they grew over the past few months. The school’s caretakers graciously cleared the grass for us. Working closely with the community partner to ensure accessibility and safety of all participants, we procured enough tools, soil, compost, mulch, and food for all 40 expected volunteers to comfortably join in on the fun!
Volunteers from Woburn Collegiate institute (with thanks to Kari O’Grady, who runs the eco team at WCI), York University (Team Maintainers and Team Growers), Woburn community volunteers, and a few volunteers from Woburn Jr (along with Soraya Fabro and her trusty wheelbarrow!), all participated in the garden bed prep from 10:30 AM to 2:30 PM on Sunday June 5th 2022. After sign-in and orientation/safety training, we put shovels into the ground! After removing old roots and weeds, digging 6’ deep in every spot of the 18’ W and 16’ L area to turn and loosen the soil, we added compost and soil (1:2 ratio) and evened out the surface of the maturing garden plot. Volunteers were treated to Pizza and Samosas from local businesses in the Woburn community. Furthermore, The Local Café donated cookies and other confectionaries for the event as well, so shout out to them!
Once the garden bed was ready for planting, Leah with the high school students got ready for the planting process. The Woburn Collegiate students helped finalize the plot for planting following the June 5th event, laying 50 additional bags of compost in rows 1.5’-2’ apart. The process also required laying some weed control fabrics and cutting holes on the fabric for the plants. The plot was now ready to take on some plants!
At the end, the unused plot of land was turned into a vegetable garden following planting events coordinated by Leah Yuyitung, Ms. O’Grady of WCI, Ms. Mariotti of St. Thomas More, and Ms. Soraya Fabro of Woburn Jr on June 15th and June 16th. Students from all the schools came out to plant on the garden bed. Once the plants were planted, they have also added sticks as support for the plant in cases of extreme weather. The garden is maintained by watering it and analyzing if all the plants are in good shape. The harvest will be distributed amongst the community residents tending the garden and shared with other residents and local food programs.
Our initial plan was to buy or create a cold food storing system for the community. The main idea was to raise money to buy a large fridge. Throughout the weeks and after meeting Leah, we changed our direction toward a different goal. The goal became plotting a piece of land in Woburn to turn it into a food garden. By continuing with the goal established our team was able to transform an unused piece of land into a food garden. We further donated high quality tools purchased from Sheridan Nurseries Scarborough for the community to use and maintain the garden moving forward.
The mission of our project is to maintain the food system by completing the requirements or passing the obstacles given by Leah for helping the food system. Our project goal was to cultivate a plot in a school located in Woburn. The plot was a grassy plot unused and not ready for food planting at all, and the goal was to make it cultivable. To make the plot cultivable, the first job was to flip/dig the plot and remove all the grass and its roots. Once the plot was clean, compost was added and on top a layer of clay was added too. The last phase was to water the whole plot.
Challenges faced throughout the project were having everything go smoothly as planned. One big challenge was guiding everyone in the right direction and ensuring everyone was safe since high school students were also involved with us to help the community. A constraint we had was the budget, but it was overcome. A big constraint was the rule of no-use of power tools, since the plot was not fertile, it needed a deep cultivator to have the job done, but instead we had to use hand tools. The obstacles throughout the project were how the funding system would work, since the purchase allowance with the York card was only from Danielle, and every store from where we had to purchase the products had their own policies.
The timeline for the project was through the whole capstone term. The main activity day of the project was on the 5th June 2022 from 10:30am to 2:30pm, this timeline was organized by Leah and our team. This plot has been cultivated for high school students; they will be planting plants for growing vegetables. The main challenge of this project was the managing part, and to confirm everything was smooth throughout the actual project day, work was divided throughout the whole group team. The biggest risk for this project was the weather, and thankfully it was a nice warm and cloudy day that did not stop us from achieving our goal.
In line with our mission and values, we intended to leave a meaningful legacy with the project work we conducted alongside the Woburn community. After our garden bed prep event on June 5th 2022, we wanted to ensure that we had a hand in the maintenance and development of the garden to its final stages, a community sustained garden that has fresh produce for the local community. There are two points to make in relation to our legacy, one direct and one indirect.
We were very happy to have played a role in all of these aforementioned developments. Team Maintainers is especially proud of the way the community came out and welcomed us, and we feel that for us, the most important piece of legacy is the relationships that came out of working with everyone in Woburn!