Our school was built in 2013 and is LEED-certified at the Silver level. That said, for a building that is supposed to showcase environmental responsibility, there is a shocking lack of “green” both in and outside of our school. We see this as a growing problem, in which environmental responsibility is taken to represent energy efficiency and proper waste management, none of which is visible to the average person. We find we still live in a highly urbanized environment that renders it difficult to develop an appreciation for what is truly natural.
Many of our students do not interact with nature daily. Many see nature as closed off or requiring a special event to visit. Our school backs on to a forest containing the Trans-Canada Trail yet this area is fenced off and students are not allowed to enter without teacher supervision and field-trip permission forms signed by parents. This virtually eliminates teacher willingness to profit from our proximity to this wonderful area. Those who have taken this effort have been rewarded with rarely seen levels of student excitement and engagement. Students genuinely love getting the chance to go into the forest and take a break from the drudgery of the school building.
We believe it is necessary to show our school community the importance of taking advantage of natural areas and green spaces. And we believe that the most powerful way to do this is to start from within the school. The third floor of our school has a rooftop terrace, which for the last three and a half years has sat completely empty and unused. To raise awareness for the lack of green spaces across Canada and in industrialized cities, we would like to take advantage of this empty space and transform it into a student learning and appreciation centre. Our project will demonstrate the simplicity of transforming an unused space into a green area, as well as educate the students and the community about the importance of their ecological footprints and the way they influence their environments.
Through this project, we hope to build student appreciation for the beauty of the natural world. The environmental leaders of tomorrow must care about the environment. No one will work to protect something that they don’t use themselves or see the value in. Without showing students the value of nature, how can we expect them to act for it.
As stated in our vision, our goal is to transform the rooftop terrace on our school into a green space that is easily accessible to students and teachers. Our plan is to fill approximately 40% of the roughly 12’ x 12’ terrace with plants in the form of a rooftop container garden. The plants selected will be native and mostly edible – we would like, eventually, for this container garden to regularly supply food to our Grade 10 nutrition course, where teaching healthy cooking is a prominent goal.
We then intend to place enough benches/seats to allow students to use the area during their lunch break and to allow teachers to bring their classes to the terrace for learning. We would like to install a whiteboard on one of the walls (the terrace is closed in on three sides, two of which are brick and the third glass), so that teachers could conduct their course from the terrace as if they were in class.
To reduce costs and increase student engagement in realizing the project, we intend to build everything (benches, plant boxes, etc.) from raw materials, preferably from recycled materials that would otherwise be thrown out or discarded.