“Bring Nature Inside”
Our vision is to bring nature inside our school to raise environmental consciousness and to foster a deeper love and appreciation for nature. By having plants in our school, we will be giving out the message to students, staff and visitors that we are a green school: we care about nature and the environment and as a school community are committed to the Sustainable Development Goals.
We envision a school that is dedicated to good health and well-being (SDG #3). Research shows that plants reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and encourage faster healing, Furthermore, indoor pants can improve mood, boost energy levels, improve mental well-being, provide therapy for anxiety and depression, and increase overall happiness. Plants also have effects that are particularly important for school settings: they improve productivity, improve students’ outlook on school and work, improve attendance, and improve concentration.
In addition to physical, psychological, and cognitive benefits, plants also help develop students’ sense of responsibility. Students at Father Michael Goetz will realize how much time and attention is needed to care for plants, which will not only increase their appreciation and respect for nature but also their collective responsibility. “Sharing the caring” will improve peer relations and foster a strong sense of belonging for all students and staff.
It is important to note that focussing on one SDG – good health and well-being – also contributes to other sustainability goals such as Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG #11), Responsible Consumption and Production (#12), Climate Action (#13), and Life on Land (#14) and Water (#15). If students’ environmental consciousness is heightened by seeing and caring for plants in the school, this will translate into their desire to live in sustainable communities, to be responsible consumers, to advocate against climate change and to protect life on land and in water. All these goals work together to protect plant life in all its forms.
Naturalist Dr. Edward Wilson coined the term Biophilia to explain the “human tendency to interact or be closely associated with other forms of life in nature” (Britannica, 2021). Our vision is to have a school environment that encourages this interaction on a daily basis. By having plants in front of us everywhere we go in the school, we will have a constant and powerful reminder of our inextricable connection to all living things. Greenery in the classrooms and open spaces in Father Michael Goetz will be a constant symbol of our shared goals and the student activism that takes place in and beyond our school community.
1) We chose “air-scrubbing” plants from a local wholesaler, The Plant Club (www.geoponics.inc), from their “Buy Indoor Air Purifying Plants” section. They included: spider plant variegated, pothos plant (marble queen and jade), peperomia variegated, peperomia tri-colour, polka dot plant, and snake plant. Students took a walk around the school and counted classrooms and other workspaces to determine the number of plants needed. 82 plants were then ordered.
As our project evolved we learned that indoor houseplants don’t really clean the air and that the term “air-scrubbing” is a misnomer used by plant retailers and wholesalers to sell plants. The idea that houseplants can remove toxins and chemicals from the air came from a 32 year-old NASA experiment which showed plants could reduce VOCs (volatile organic compounds), such as formaldehyde, in small airtight containers. (“A Study of Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement”, July 1989”). However, recent research shows that plants do not purify the air in a regular household or office environment; we need mechanical air filters to do this, or an open window or door. (“Potted plants do not improve indoor air quality: a review and analysis of reported VOC removal efﬁciencies”, November 2019). Nonetheless, plants are life-giving as they provide us with oxygen and take in carbon dioxide and have proven mental health and cognitive benefits. As a result of our findings, we removed the word “air-scrubbing” from our action project title.
2) When the plants were delivered, members unwrapped, watered and separated the plants that didn’t need as much light (e.g. snake plants) for the darker classrooms
3) Members distributed the plants to 82 rooms (including classrooms, staff workspaces and the Wellness Room). Each plant was distributed with care instructions specific to each variety for staff and students to ensure that the plant thrives
4) Golden Pothos plants (Devil’s Ivy) were put aside for the green wall that will be put up in the front foyer of the school as they are ideal hanging plants.
5) Just before the current lockdown, staff were asked to bring their plant to the front foyer so they could be watered by the custodial staff during our stay-at-home order
6) The PIP (Preparing for Independence) Special Education students who have been attending in-person school during the stay-at-home order have now taken on the responsibility of watering, which we are thrilled about! Taking care of the plants has really become a whole-school initiative!
Reflection & Celebration
‘Our “Bringing Nature Inside” Action Project was a great success! We received many emails from teachers expressing the joy they felt finding a plant on their classroom desks in the morning. Several teachers emailed us to say thank you and asked questions about plant care. Other teachers hadn’t received a plant in the first delivery and contacted us to say, “where’s our plant?” Teachers started asking for plants for their workrooms and secretaries for their offices. Plant joy and excitement quickly spread though the entire school. Teachers and students started naming their plants and showing concern for their plant’s development. One teacher came to me worried that the pots were too small for optimal plant growth and urged us to get bigger pots. So, we brought empty pots to school, as well as a huge bag of soil and a hand shovel. Students enthusiastically responded to our invitation to come downstairs to shovel some soil into a pot and repotted their plants during class time – a very welcome break from a 2.5 hour class! The plants quickly became a source of conversation, care and love around the school and were certainly bringing us together again. During a time when the pandemic has significantly increased feelings of loneliness, isolation, stress and anxiety, our plant friends couldn’t have arrived at a better time! The therapeutic properties of greenery have in a short time been felt by staff and students; we can imagine the continued impact they will have as they grow, and more students return to in-person school next year.”
Ms. Mouchbahani, Teacher-Facilitator
“Our Action Project was a fun and exciting initiative. Despite the challenge our Goetz Eco Team faced, with delays of the arrival of plants to our school because of Covid-19, I really enjoyed the process of this project. It was very successful since all of the feedback that I received from students and teachers was positive and supportive. Overall, I’d say this action project accomplished a lot for our school because it provided beautiful scenery in the classrooms, gave students and teachers a sense of wellness, and gave something to staff and students that we can take care of together once schools re-open.”
Mohammed, grade 11
“My teachers still talk to me about the plants they got to take care of in their classrooms and how they beautified the room and were a breath of fresh air. During the short in-school learning time we had, teachers and students worked together in the maintenance of the plants by watering them and even giving them names! During this time of Covid, the plants have brought about a reminder of oneness. Although we are at home and not seeing each other as often as we want, we are still one family.”
Victoria, grade 11
“I expected the “Bringing Nature Inside” plant project to be fun and interesting, and it was! The Goetz Eco Team members took part in distributing the plants to different classes and I enjoyed doing that, plus, I got to see some members face-to-face during the pandemic. Because of Covid-19, there were delays of the plants and there were days we were ready to distribute them but were told the plants hadn’t arrived yet. So, when the plants finally arrived, it was even more rewarding to have them in our hands! By being part of this project, I learned the names of plants I didn’t know before and learned how to take care of them which enhanced my appreciation of plants overall. This project was definitely successful in the school. One of my teachers asked me to name the plant for her, which really emphasized the idea that a plant is a living thing and something that needs to be cared for, just like humans. Also, it was great to hear friends saying that we, as Goetz Eco Team members, are doing a great job. I believe this project brought students and teachers a lot of happiness during a very challenging year. It is so rewarding to see a green environment in our school and to be able to watch the greenery grow from year to year.”
Kertina, grade 11
“As a graduating student I learned a lot from the distribution of plants in our school. Not only did I learn about the needs of different plants (which kinds of plants need less sunlight and less water than other ones) but I also learned about the effect indoor plants have on people. The plant project was a great way to see teachers smile despite all the challenges they had teaching during Covid-19. Teachers had huge smiles on their faces when we delivered and discussed the plants. You could see them smiling underneath the masks they were wearing which was really rewarding! I plan to continue my journey as an Eco citizen after high school graduation by joining Western University’s EnviroWestern community which promotes environmental sustainability. The “Bring Nature Inside” Action Project was a happy experience that I will never forget and one that inspired my desire to pursue sustainability initiatives beyond high school.”
George, grade 12
“This project was a very exciting and amazing experience. It took a while to actually put the project into action, with all the interruptions and problems we faced during the pandemic, but I am very happy we finally made it happen. It definitely brought smiles to our peers and teachers in the school. It was so inspiring to be part of this project and be near amazing people who care about the earth and sustainability as much as I do. This will forever be in my heart and mind as I look back at the memories I have made this year!”
Vanessa, grade 11
“The “Bringing Nature Inside” Action Project at our school was my all-time favourite part about high school. I have a lot of plants at home and I love taking care of them so to be able to do the same at school was really awesome! All the Goetz ECO Team members were involved so there was a great sense of teamwork. The process of getting the plants into each class was difficult at first but it was totally worth it. We started looking for vendors in December of 2019 but many of them did not have a variety of plants or were unable to sell wholesale. We finally found a supplier and were able to get a list of all the homeroom classes from the secretary, which helped us a lot. We started going to all the classrooms to see which plant would suit each room in terms of natural lighting. The vendor ended up not wanting to sell for the school and Ms.Mouchbahani had to look for another vendor. Unfortunately, the date that the plants were supposed to arrive was the first day we had to stay home after March break, due to Covid. It was really sad to have to put all our plans on hold. Thankfully, we were able to re-order the plants between school closures and had them delivered to the school. All of us came in after our online or in-person classes and went around the building to distribute the greenery. It was so much fun and we got to give every classroom a plant without leaving anybody out. It took us longer than we expected but we got it done. It was an experience that I will remember forever. Being Minister of the Environment at Goetz and participating in the Goetz ECO Team during my last two years of high school, opened my eyes to the climate change crisis and made me realize the importance of leading action projects like “Bringing Nature Inside”. This project got students thinking and talking about the environment and the issues we face which has inspired me to join a university environmental club in September. I look forward to continuing to take part in sustainability initiatives in any way I can.”
Hafssa, grade 12