Donkin School’s Windbreak
Students at Donkin School experience a chilly and often windy recess time while on the playground… our school is only a hop, skip and a jump away from the Atlantic Ocean! Our playground area is located at a direct straightaway from the ocean’s wind, and there are no barriers to hide behind from that chilly ocean breeze. By building a natural windbreak using trees and shrubs, we envisioned creating not only a solution to our chilly, windy playground area, but we also hoped it would decrease fuel costs for the school, provide a natural shelter for wildlife and also provide a learning zone for the students at our school through the use of signs stating what the tree/shrub is named in English, French, Gaelic and Mi’kmaq, and what they are traditionally used for in each culture. Through investigations and experiments at the school, students would be able to discover the hidden, useful properties of the native plant species that are right in their backyard.
Students researched native plant species to Cape Breton for characteristics that suited a windbreak – quick growth, bushy and a mix of tall and short for the different layers. Students also created a to-scale map of the backyard school-grounds to determine where the windbreak should be placed. Through a partnership with the Atlantic Coastal Action Program (ACAP), students were able learn about and test different areas of soil in the backyard to determine which trees would like certain areas of the grounds better. Through their research and with the help of ACAP, we decided on purchasing white spruce, red maple, red oak, serviceberry and high bush cranberry trees. Students were also gifted red spruce tree seeds to plant and take care of prior to planting in the windbreak area. We plan to plant the trees in late May-early June, also with the support of ACAP (hence why there are no fun photos of our windbreak planting session/final product yet!).