Friday, October 15, 2010

The Learning Garden at Lancaster School, Mississauga, Ontario

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


  1. Hi Jennifer,

    I taught Kinergarten for thirty-four years in the public school system and planted with my class each year. For ten years we tried to get permission for a school literacy garden and always got the "no" answer, would disrupt something. I have visited many school and community gardens to help the cause. We finally got the okay for a small raised bed garden in the back of the school.


  2. I've vaguely heard about this program but have never investigated it thoroughly. The concept is brilliant and I would think in the 'greener' society that we now live in, this program would be widely embraced and implemented! Thanks for the education ~ I'm going to visit the program website! Hope you enjoy a lovely weekend.

  3. Eileen, I applaud your persistence. I am so glad to hear that you got permission to put in a flower bed at the local school. Without a doubt, the children will be delighted to discover all the garden's flowers.

    Lisa, I whole heartedly agree that Evergreen is an organization doing great things! I also plan to post on the "Brickworks" in Don Mills, which is another one of their projects. I hope you have a great weekend too!

  4. I think this is so wonderful! I must say that I was lucky when I went to school, however -- I started in a small, wooden school house about a mile from home. It sat politely on the edge of a brook and was nestled into a grove of beautiful oak trees. When that school gave way to brick-and-mortar, the new school was perched on a property that was surrounded by conifers and gave an unobstructed view of the Bay of Fundy/Minas Basin. I still wish someone had had the foresight to plant a lovely garden, though. :)

  5. Dear Jennifer, What a wonderful programme this is and what a wonderful result the school's garden is that you feature here. Increasingly, young people are isolated from Nature in their own rooms with computers and it is so important for them to interact with living things and take part in the development of a garden and the production of food.

  6. What a difference a garden can make-especially for a school. For so many years schools have been designed so that concrete and windowless rooms were de rigeur. I am so glad to see that is changing.

  7. What a great program, and the people who designed it are wonderful! It is so sad to see some schools surrounded by stone, glass and asphalt. I was fortunate to be at school with a garden. I even remember taking turns to feed the birds. Thank you for the post and beautiful photographs!

  8. What a great project! and the garden looks amazing

  9. Very impressive! I hope many of those kids will grow up to be nature lovers... the world needs a lot more.

  10. What an amazing and wonderful idea! What a great way to teach kids!

  11. Jennifer, my wife and I just got the okay to create a school garden at the elementary school where she works, a project we are very excited about! It will be tool to teach children about nature, plants and growing healthy food and a way for us to share our passion for gardening!


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