North Haven Learning Grounds
The focus of the North Haven Learning Grounds school naturalization project is to create a usable outdoor space for students.
Visioning included student discussions centered around “What kind of world do you want?” Students also made observations of the schoolyard to see what was missing.
Factors students considered included:
A place for doing: which offers opportunities for physical activities, for “doing” all kinds of things amongst nature based objects, developing new skills, to find challenges and take risks.
A place for thinking: which provides opportunities for inquiry, study and learning, which allow us to explore and discover and understand more about the world we live in.
A place for feeling – which presents colour and beauty and interest, which fosters a sense of ownership and pride and belonging.
A place for being – which allows students to “be” themselves, read, “hang out”.
Modifed from Special Places, Special People by Wendy Titman
The students developed a proposal to improve the front garden of our school as part of a broader Learning Grounds project that has been in progress for the last eight months. Funding from the LSF Action Project is to purchase soil to support sustainable, native plants in the school’s front garden.
Classes have researched sustainable environmental conditions, created project designs, performed civic engagement through presentations, surveys and voting, and applied mathematical knowledge to create accurate budgets and designs. Community members provided feedback and created the conditions for the work to move forward.
Students used resources from the Kainai First Nation to learn about and select species of plants that would grow well in the region of Alberta where our school is located. They also researched the soil conditions the native plants would need to be sustainable and remain beautiful throughout the summer when students and staff are not in school. Students measured and calculated all that they would need to amend the soil in the front garden, and to resurface a gravel access area.
Student voice: “We would like to share our thoughts around why we chose the plants we did for the front flower bed. Native plants need less maintenance but are still beautiful depending what flowers or shrubs you get. Some grade 5/6 students took the time to research native plants from the Kainai Plant Index and their Alberta Guide to Trees and Forests book. All of the plants they researched are perennial plants which means they come back every year. They had to make sure that all the plants are native so they stay alive even when they don’t have everyday care. They are also drought resistant. All the plants are on the Kainai Plant Index, Guide to Trees and Forests and have a local, Calgary vendor. All these plants won’t take up a lot of room and they would look beautiful all together.”
Reflection & Celebration
Our project is not yet complete, as we are eagerly awaiting our Action Project Grant in the mail as the Our Canada Project submittal deadline arrives. However, the Learning Grounds have already created a sense of pride in students. There are of course educational and environmental benefits, but in consideration of the emotional load students have carried due to COVID protocols and required distancing, the social and emotional benefits of an accessible outdoor space created together certainly stand out.
The Learning Grounds have already created social and emotional learning opportunities for students which extend to their families and into the community. There are so many benefits to getting outside for kids and adults alike. David Suzuki describes many benefits from spending time in nature including inspiring creativity, boosting immunity, and reducing stress.
I expect that planting the garden will be a celebration in itself, and we’re just getting started.