Earlier this year we watched a neighbour cut down a tree while we were playing in the school yard. Our Kindergarten students were horrified because we spend a lot of time talking about the importance of trees for our environment. It prompted a great discussion about reasons for cutting down trees (we unfortunately had about 15 trees cut down in our school yard a few years ago due to the Ash Borer beetle) but our 4 and 5 year olds brought up concerns about where the birds and squirrels would live, how the air quality might suffer and where they would find shade if we didn’t have trees. They suggested planting more trees to make up for the ones that had to be cut down. My teaching partner and I started looking for grants that could fund our young students’ project proposal and we were so excited when we found Learning For a Sustainable Solution’s Fund just days before the applications closed.
We got advice from experts about which kinds of trees were native to our area and the hardiest options for our playground. Of those, our school board only allowed maple trees so we purchased a variety of maple trees. The students counted out how far apart to place the trees, dug up the soil, planted and watered the trees, and helped to place a protective fence around them. They are so proud of their work and it has encouraged so much learning already. We are all so appreciative and looking forward to the learning to come as we invite more critters and creatures into our schoolyard.
Reflection & Celebration
The best, unexpected, benefit of this project has been seeing the students’ pride in ownership of the project. They are proud to show our tree space to anyone who comes to our school and explain why it was necessary for us. The experience also made our kindergarteners realize that the schoolyard is not fixed and unchangeable and they started thinking of other ways they wanted to improve the yard. They expressed a desire for a part of the schoolyard be saved as a “no-mow” zone where they could plant more wildflowers for the pollinators without them being mowed down over the summer. They’ve also expressed a desire for an outdoor classroom, which we’ve set as a goal for next year.