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Outdoor classroom

Vision

Our vision for Canada is… To create a calm and peaceful environment for kids to connect with nature and learn about nature. We worked together with the school and local community to create a space on our school grounds intended for use as an outdoor classroom. Our school is located in an urban setting with a small playground area. Our intent was to maximize the space we have and to create a better habitat for plants, insects and animals by replacing a grassed area with mulch, rocks, and eventually also some shade plants. This is also an area that is used and enjoyed by the local community.

Action

Students in Grades 4-8 that are part of our school’s EcoLeaders came up with a plan and applied for funding for this project. We received an EcoLeague grant from LSF, as well as some funding from the UGDSB’s Green Up Our School Grant. We also collected funds on Earth Day (Un Toonie pour la Terre) and sold honey. We approached a parent who has a landscaping business to discuss our ideas for the space and to draw up a detailed professional plan to submit to the UGDSB Board for approval. We then approached the Mayor of Guelph, requesting donation of some large Ash tree logs to be used as benches, since many Ash trees are currently being cut down in the City. Lastly, we approached Flamboro Quarry to request possible donation of some large rocks to frame in our space. The City and the Quarry both responded very generously. We rented an excavator & put the logs and rocks in place, framing in our outdoor classroom space and creating 2 small rock groupings to be used for group work. Next, we ordered topsoil and mulch from a local nursery. Students were involved shovelling the soil & mulch into wheelbarrows and spreading it. Landscaping fabric was put down on top of the soil before adding the mulch. This is the first stage of developing this space. We hope in Stage 2, to make this entire area a “no-mow” zone, and to add native plants.

Reflection & Celebration

Challenges: working with very busy volunteers, it was challenging to find time that worked with our school schedule and with their work schedules to move ahead with this project. However, this project would not have come to fruition without them!!! Another challenge was TIME – waiting for approval of plans and other things, such as submitting for locates before we were able to dig, took up valuable time.

Successes – It was great to see the EcoLeaders take ownership of this project. They really dream big! Although we were not able to implement all of their amazing ideas, their enthusiasm is contagious. The student body got very excited as things began to happen and the parents & staff also were incredibly supportive of our efforts, often suggesting people who could help us or great ideas. This was a project that really pulled people together. Students are very excited to use this area & since it is in such a lovely, shaded area with mature trees, it is also well used “after hours” by the community.

Learning – I learned a lot throughout this process! I did not know about the UGDSB’s Green Up Your School Grant prior to doing this. I learned a lot about the necessary steps to take prior to making any changes on school grounds. This project really stretched us and made us do some new things, such as the “Toonie Pour la Terre” fundraising, that we will likely continue!

This September, our parent council organized a work day. As part of this, Eco club members were invited to come out and help weed the school gardens. Our new outdoor classroom had some weeds around the edges that were all cleaned up as part of this effort. To ensure sustainability, we will need to add to the mulch each Spring.

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