Restoring Tallgrass Prairies in Winnipeg’s Garden City Neighbourhood
H.C. Avery middle school has been developing a robust outdoor education and land-based learning program focused on food sovereignty and, more recently, learning more about Tallgrass Prairie species as climate action education. This past year we have taken a deeper dive with a full-time teaching position (Scott Durling) dedicated to supporting students and teachers with climate action and climate change education. Our students have a strong ability to articulate the various and complex pieces to the climate crisis, including the excess of carbon in the atmosphere, the impact of severe weather events on communities, and the changes to ecological systems as a result of global warming and extractive colonization.
On our school grounds, we have been developing Tallgrass Prairie as a way to restore the land to its original ecological systems before colonization for the past 3 years. The intent is to remove colonizing plants, such as Kentucky Bluegrass, and to restore it with indigenous Tallgrass species. Our students wanted to take this concept of our own school project and model this within our own community. The goal for the students was to show that by including a Tallgrass Prairie on a homeowner’s property, they are helping to restore ecological damage and take climate action.
Our Climate Action Project was to reach out to a local homeowner and to propose creating a Tallgrass Prairie garden in their front yard in a visible location. Using our local Facebook community page the lead teacher reached out to the community to pose the project and requested any interested homeowners to connect. One homeowner responded who was within walking distance from our school. The homeowner was very excited to implement this project – they had been considering how to develop a naturalized garden but were unsure about how to go about the work.
This Climate Action Project was to develop a 200 sq/ft garden in the front yard of the neighbour’s house, where we planted 24 different Tallgrass prairie species. These small but important gardens help with restoring original species, sequestering carbon, and developing water and drought resiliency, but also for participating in a genuine decolonizing act that addresses tremendous harm to culture and also to land.
Reflection & Celebration
Eventually, we hope to showcase what can be done and, in subsequent years, recreate similar kinds of projects with homeowners around our community. With many pockets of Tallgrass prairie, these become important corridors for different species to move between, and result in a revitalization of Tallgrass Prairie in Winnipeg. Many neighbours of the homeowner we worked with have approached them on their garden and how they accomplished it. We see a large need and interest in our community to develop these kinds of gardens in subsequent years.