The sunflowers planted by the kindergarden students at Lancaster Public School in Mississauga.
What was your schoolyard like when you were a child? So often in the past, most urban schoolyards were little more than a windswept, treeless expanse of rock hard concrete and asphalt, with maybe a little turf grass surrounded by a chain link fence.
Traditionally, we tend to think of schoolyards as a place for play, physical activity and socialization. The all important "learning" took place in the classroom. Perhaps that is why so little thought was usually given to the design of school yards.
Enter Evergreen, an innovative, not-for profit organization dedicated to facilitating sustainable greening projects in schoolyards, parks and communities across Canada. Evergreen believes that, "by planting trees, shrubs and wildflowers, creating meadows and butterfly gardens on school grounds, learning opportunities literally come alive."
Working in partnership with selected elementary and secondary schools, they have devised a program which involves the building of a Learning Garden, "a place where children can play, learn and develop a genuine respect for nature."
Now at recess time, the students at Lancaster Public School in Mississauga can roam freely through the Learning Garden they themselves designed, built and planted. The overall garden consists of several themed planting areas including a bird sanctuary, a canoe forest, and a vegetable garden.
Take a look at what these kids have created:
Top: A view of the school from the Learning Garden at Lancaster School. Bottom images: Yellow daisies in the front garden (left) and a sunflower about to open (right).
The garden attracts butterflies, bees and birds to the school yard. In fact, Ms. Lavigne, the school's office manager, told us that one morning, a little girl came into the office to report that a "bird" had bitten her at recess. Ms. Lavigne thought this odd. Native birds don't usually "bite"!
When the next day, a young boy came into the office with the very same story, she determined that she had better head out into the garden and check things out. What she discovered, amongst the native grasses and wildflowers, was a duck who had built a nest in the garden. The duck was simply acting to protect its young family.
Wild asters (top and right) attract bees and butterflies. Seed-heads and wild grasses draws native birds to Bird Sanctuary.
In the vegetable garden, tomatoes the students planted ripen on the vine.
The teachers also use the garden throughout the school day as part of the regular class instructional time. They teach natural science lessons, plant flowers and vegetables, tend the garden and sit with the children on the garden's circle of stones for story time.
A pretty nasturtium from the vegetable garden.
Now that fall has come to the Learning Garden, birds and squirrels will delight to discover seeds in the nodding sunflowers planted the kindergarden classes. In the coming winter, the garden's tress, shrubs and tall grasses will provide valuable sanctuary for native wildlife from the harsh winter winds.
To learn more Evergreen and their many greening projects in communities across Canada, visit their website at www.evergreen.ca