Joy in the Outdoor Classroom
Kids at Featherston Drive Public School are proud to have come back to an extra classroom this school year. It’s in the front yard of the school at 1801 Featherston Drive, and the students have helped make it happen.
Community stakeholders pitched in too. Here’s how: Tree Canada made a proposal to the University of Ottawa’s Centre for Global and Community Engagement (CGCE) to do a schoolyard greening project. The proposal was accepted and funding from the TD Environmental Leaders Program paid for trees, shrubs and planting supplies. Since Featherston had a need to rejuvenate its yard after the loss of several ash trees, Tree Canada approached the school. Then, a team of nine students recruited by the CGCE came together with Tree Canada to plan and carry out the project.
In the words of Featherston teacher David Coyne, “It has transformed our school grounds, and made a more authentically engaging environment for our students and for our community.”
The university students taught the grade-school kids about trees and planting, and they also got out shovels to assist them in establishing the outdoor classroom. Featherston’s students lapped it up.
The project was quite an educational opportunity, David says, allowing pupils to learn about lifecycles, stewardship, and respect for the needs of trees. “Furthermore, students continue to make curricular connections in science and literature.”
The teacher, who runs the school’s Lifesavers Environmental Group for Grades 1 to 8, speaks highly of Tree Canada. The Ottawa-based organization does “amazing things, efficiently and collaboratively with other community organizations,” he notes. Tree Canada has actually greened more than 550 school yards and planted close to 80 million trees since it was established some two decades ago, according to its website, treecanada.ca.
The benefits at Featherston are visible. There’s now an outdoor space that is interactive, educational and engaging for both students and their greater community. The bonus? It provides food.
Not only are the learners excited about this new classroom, their families are too, the educator points out. “It has been a joy to see parents loitering around the trees, herb garden and bushes, and upon the friendship bench that the students painted.” Those trees are sugar maples, and the fruit bushes include Saskatoon berry and two varieties of currants: red and white. The outdoor space also includes an accessible path.
Another community organization, Growing Up Organic, has guided the school in installing six raised vegetable gardens, so now the school’s families can enjoy the bounty of the harvest.
“It is especially meaningful for us as our school community is not an affluent one, and involves many new Canadians,” David mentions, adding all the parents care deeply about their children’s well-being and academic achievements. The new green spaces and outdoor resources will contribute to these ends.