With a little dirt, a lot of trees and some green thumbed teachers, students and greening experts, St. James Catholic School in Bridlewood is expanding its classrooms and taking learning into the open air.
Taking a large step towards greening their school grounds during the month of May, St. James – a kindergarten to grade six school of 330 students – saw their green-plan come into reality as parents, teachers and volunteers planted 18 trees, removed asphalt and built an “outdoor classroom” that can hold a class of over 30 students.
An environmentally-focused school, Jennifer Armour, vice-chair of the parent’s council at St. James, said the plan was not only to green the school grounds but to create a space where teachers can take their students and teach in a shaded environment.
“We had a hill and a lot of asphalt behind our school,” said Armour. “So we removed some of the asphalt and dirt, created cedar log seating in a circle and added trees around it. Now teachers can hold outdoor lessons for a class of 30 – if not more.”
“The trees are placed to give shade as they grow older,” said Armour. “We worked with an evergreen consultant – they help you with your project in terms of planning and design.”
A member of the parent’s council since September 2011, Armour said the greening plan was in action long before she arrived – with money already secured for the trees – but supplementary funding was still needed.
“I applied to two other agencies – the TD Friends of the Environment Fund and the Toyota Evergreen Learning Grounds – and they contributed over $7,000,” said Armour. “We as well received a $9,000 greening fund investment from the City of Ottawa and we held a cake auction that raised an extra $1,000,” said Armour.
Armour said all it took was an application. The TD Friends of the Environment Fund – a national organization with a grassroots focus that funds local projects dedicated to preserving the environment – and the Toyota Evergreen Learning Grounds – a project that helps schools and their communities create outdoor classrooms and healthy places to play, learn and develop a genuine respect for nature –“were incredibly helpful in not only the funding, but as well showing the school the best placement for trees” and explaining how they would grow with time to create opportune shaded areas.
In total, Armour said it took a $17,500 investment, but this is only the beginning.
“Our school has a lot of eco-initiatives,” said Armour. “This is the first step. We are looking to enhance some of our other features later down the road.”