Ground Greening at Bayside Public School!!
Our vision for Canada is to create ground greening projects on our school yard. We want to improve biodiversity and ecological sustainability. In addition, we hope to promote the environmental, social, and physical well-being of our school community and foster a better understanding of how the natural world sustains us. These projects will put the natural world at students’ fingertips and will offer a rich context for exploring science, nutrition, social studies, mathematics, language arts, visual arts and more. We want to move education beyond the four walls of a classroom.
The issues to be addressed in this project will be to provide students with an endless variety of systems through which to learn the principles of ecology. Garden systems will provide a living context in which students will be able to study interdependence, diversity, cycles, scale and limits, energy and resources, succession, and sustainability.
This is an important issue in our school because our ground greening projects will provide a much-needed context for our students to investigate the world we live in. By introducing our students to the importance of natural conservation, sustainability, and the maintenance and protection of ecosystems, we hope to instill in our students and their families a greater care and passion for taking care of the world we live in — not only green space but we hope their knowledge will also transfer into reducing their environmental impacts.
At Bayside Public School, we decided to develop an Eco-Team which consists of students, teachers, parents, a custodian and administration. As part of our Eco-Team, our mission is to nurture environmental leaders, reduce the ecological impact of schools, and build environmentally responsible school communities. Our Eco-Team’s interest in ground greening projects engaged other students and staff to also become involved.
One of our focuses was to establish a variety of ground greening projects! We now have a No Mow Zone area that houses two bird nesting boxes, bird feeders and bird houses. We created a habitat for pollinators and butterflies by putting up a bee house, a butterfly house and planted wildflower seeds. We created a sunflower garden outside of two classroom windows. Lastly, we created a large vegetable garden that is separated into 8 individual plots that is now growing tomatoes, beans, kale, peas, lettuce, squash, pumpkins, zucchini and watermelon. Some of the tomatoes, kale, peas, lettuce, squash and pumpkins were grown from seeds and grown in the classroom in mini-greenhouses or our Tower Garden. Some of the plants such as additional tomatoes and squash plants, as well as zucchini, and watermelon were purchased.
The ground greening projects have been creating a lot of excitement and buzz at our school. Students have been engaged and are enjoying being part of the decision making and process for the different gardens. Educators at school are using the different projects as relevant, authentic, and valuable learning opportunities for their students. Families are engaged and are assisting with the planting of our gardens. Families and other school staff are commenting positively on the different gardens and the transformation of our school yard. Education and learning is moving beyond the classroom and into the outdoors. Students and staff are already motivated to expand the ground greening projects and create more projects on different areas of the school yard.
Youth leadership has been highlighted throughout this project by students demonstrating their commitment, motivation, caring, and responsibility for our different ground greening projects. They are taking pride in their accomplishments, learning gardening and nurturing skills, developing an awareness and concern for the environment, and developing an interest in a healthful and rewarding leisure pursuit (gardening and an enjoyment of being outdoors). Their knowledge is being shared with their peers and families.
Reflection & Celebration
One of our challenges was the weather. Our gardens were not planted as early as we wanted to because the ground was still frozen. Then when the grounds were no longer frozen, we had a lot of precipitation which put a halt on the gardens again. However, once the weather was nice, our school team of students, staff, families and community partners, buckled down and worked hard to get things going.
A second challenge is that our outside faucet has not been used in sometime and it is not conveniently located by our vegetable gardens. We are watering the gardens by hand with watering cans and are using rain barrels. However, since there has not yet been much rain. We are having to fill the rain barrels with a hose that is being run through a window and connected to a classroom sink. This could be a challenge as the weather gets warmer, and when no rain is in the forecast resulting in dry rain barrels. There are times over the summer holidays when the school is not accessible because our custodians are on summer holidays, so we will need to figure out how our gardens will continue to be watered.
We have been currently celebrating our ground greening projects with our families through our classroom networks. Staff involved in the project are sharing the process at meetings including School Council, day-to-day conversations, and with invitations to come and check out the different gardens. Pictures and Tweets are regular being shared with our school community on school Twitter accounts. Our school newsletter has also highlighted our ground greening projects. Some of our families also pick up their children, and walk by some of our gardens, at this time we are encouraging our students to showcase the gardens and create conversations about them.
We learned that it takes strong leadership to carry out a large project such as this. In addition to leadership, we needed a dedicated and motivated team – of all ages. Planning took time, patience, flexibility and organization. Open-communication throughout the project was key. In addition, support from our Administration, families and community partners was essential. Keeping activities and our projects in the forefront motivated all of our participants. Holding each other accountable for their responsibilities and sharing positive feedback and reflections throughout the project kept everyone engaged and motivated for its success.
We will ensure the ongoing sustainability of this project by doing proper maintenance for our gardens, nesting boxes, feeders, houses, rain barrels, etc.. We will continue to expand gardens on our existing yard and on other parts of our school yard. We will track growth cycles, harvest, dry and store seeds for future planting, and continue to grow plants in our classroom. To help with the maintenance and expansion of our projects, we will continue to seek out funds through grants, seek support from our School Council, our families and continue to develop and establish relationships with our community partners.